Jun 7, 2024 - Technology

Microsoft changes Recall feature amid criticism

A screenshot of Microsoft's Recall feature

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft said Friday that it would turn off its forthcoming Recall feature by default and make other changes amid criticism from security and privacy experts.

Why it matters: The feature, launching in preview, is designed to make it easier for PC users to find information they've seen while using their computer, but the company has faced concern that, as initially described, the feature could allow hackers easy access to a treasure trove of private information.

Driving the news: Microsoft said in a blog post on Friday that the feature will now be opt-in, rather than on by default, and will require people to have logged in using some form of biometrics, such as fingerprint or facial recognition.

  • The company also said it would encrypt the database that contains the screenshots that power the Recall feature.
  • The changes come amid a flurry of criticisms from security and privacy experts as well as people who have tested an early version of the software.
  • At Axios' AI+ Summit on Wednesday, Signal President Meredith Whittaker called the feature "a serious hijacking of trust" and "a dangerous honeypot for hackers."

How it works: The Recall feature allows people to search for something they have seen on their computer by taking frequent screenshots of what is taking place, including scanning the text and images and storing that information in a database on the computer itself.

  • Recall, which does not send data to the cloud, only works on a new class of Copilot+ PCs that are due to start shipping later this month.
  • It's also not an all-or-nothing proposition, with Copilot+ PC owners are able to select which apps or websites are excluded from the screenshots.
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