AI feature that takes screenshots of your Windows PC under investigation by UK watchdog – ‘privacy nightmare’

Hours later who promises never to destroy the human race with his artificial intelligenceThe striking new AI feature coming to Windows 11 has been branded a ‘privacy nightmare’ by campaigners and prompted an investigation from the UK’s data protection watchdog.

The flashy new trick, called Recall, was announced alongside the first Copilot+ PCs with exclusive functionality in Windows 11 earlier this week.


animated gif showing how to scroll back in time on Windows 11 PC using the callback function

Recall is the main feature of this range of Copilot+ PCs, allowing you to scroll back through everything that happened on your Windows 11 machine and jump back in time with one click. Everything is searchable because AI has searched the images and text on the device

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Recall takes screenshots of everything you do this on-screen and use on-device AI to analyze the content and make text and images searchable using the Copilot AI chatbot.

For example, if you know you looked at flights to Spain in the last month, you can search for the destination to find the exact web page. With a single click, Windows 11 calls up the document, image, video, or web page and picks up where you left off.

You can also scroll back in time through the screenshots, which are taken periodically throughout the day and can be saved for months at a time.

Recall won’t take screenshots when you use a private browsing mode, such as incognito mode in Google Chrome, Microsoft has reassured PC owners. It’s also not enabled by default, so you’ll have to actively dive into the Settings menu and enable the feature.

Despite these assurances, the British data protection watchdog is “investigating” Microsoft into the new feature that can take screenshots every few seconds.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) told the BBC that companies must “rigorously assess and mitigate the risks to people’s rights and freedoms” before launching new products. The data protection regulator said it was “inquiring with Microsoft to understand the safeguards in place to protect user privacy”.

Privacy activists responded strongly to Recall’s announcement.

“This could be a privacy nightmare,” Dr. Kris Shrishak, an AI and privacy consultant, told the BBC. “The mere act of taking screenshots while using the device can have a chilling effect on people.”

Jen Caltrider, program director for the *Privacy Not Included team at Mozilla, has warned that Recall would give anyone with access to your laptop or desktop PC access to a wealth of personal information because it contains a categorized list of recent activities. .

Caltrider warned: “[This includes] court orders from law enforcement agencies, or even from Microsoft if they change their mind about keeping all this content local and not using it for targeted advertising or training their AIs in the future.”

Microsoft says Recall will not censor or erase information from captured screenshots, even if passwords or bank account information is visible on the screen.

In a blog post about the new functionality that will be added the new Surface Laptop next monthwrote the US company: “Recall uses your personal semantic index, which is built and stored entirely on your device.

“Your snapshots are yours; they stay local on your PC. You can delete individual snapshots, adjust time ranges and delete them in Settings, or pause them at any time, right from the notification area icon on your taskbar.

“You can also ensure that apps and websites are never saved. You always have control over the privacy you can trust.”

Surface laptop 7th edition shown with the new version of Windows 11 in the 13-inch and 15-inch model Recall and some other AI features will be exclusive to Windows 11 on so-called Copilot+ PCs, including the newly announced Surface Laptop 7th Edition, pictured above MICROSOFT PRESS OFFICE

But Jake Moore, global cybersecurity consultant at software security firm ESET, said creating and storing more private data through this feature could be an attractive prospect for cybercriminals.

“Enabling a feature that has the ability to capture screen data not only provides even more data to the company behind the software, but also opens up a new avenue for criminals to attack,” he said.

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“While this feature is not enabled by default, users should note that content may be analyzed by AI algorithms for a better experience.

“While it may deliver better results, a balance must be maintained between functionality and privacy and therefore users must remain aware of the potential risks if sensitive data is ever compromised. Creating and storing more private data seems unnecessary when cybercriminals are constantly looking for a particular vulnerability to exploit.”

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