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UK watchdog investigates Microsoft AI screenshot feature

May 23, 2024

The UK data watchdog has announced it is "making enquiries with Microsoft" regarding a new feature that captures screenshots of your laptop every few seconds. This feature, called Recall, will store encrypted snapshots locally on the user's computer and will be exclusive to the upcoming Copilot+ PCs from Microsoft.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is seeking more details on the safety of this product, which privacy advocates have labeled a potential "privacy nightmare." Microsoft assures that Recall is an "optional experience" with a strong commitment to privacy and security, and users can control which snapshots are collected. The company emphasizes that Recall data is stored locally and not accessed by Microsoft or anyone without device access.

The ICO spokesperson stressed that companies must "rigorously assess and mitigate risks to people's rights and freedoms" before launching new products, and they are currently inquiring about the privacy safeguards Microsoft has implemented.

Recall can search through users' past activities, including files, photos, emails, and browsing history, and takes screenshots every few seconds. Privacy expert Dr. Kris Shrishak expressed concerns that this could have a chilling effect on user behavior, as people might avoid visiting certain websites or accessing confidential documents.

Microsoft insists it has prioritized privacy in Recall’s design, allowing users to opt out of capturing certain content, such as private browsing on its Edge browser. However, concerns remain about how the system will handle proprietary or confidential information on users' screens and how consent will be managed for people appearing in screenshots.

Jen Caltrider from Mozilla warned that someone with your password could access your detailed history, including sensitive information, and raised concerns about the potential future use of this data by Microsoft. Caltrider cautioned against using a computer running Recall for anything private or sensitive, suggesting that it could lead to significant privacy issues.


Image: Sky News