Microsoft rolls back PC screenshot feature after outcry

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Microsoft is showing off its new range of AI-powered laptops

  • author, Lev McMahon
  • Role, BBC News

Microsoft is making changes to a controversial feature announced for its new range of AI-powered computers after it was labeled a potential “privacy nightmare”.

The company has billed Copilot+’s “recall” feature as a way to make users’ lives easier by taking and storing screenshots of desktop activity.

But after people claimed that hackers might be able to abuse the tool and its saved screenshots, Microsoft is enabling the feature instead.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the UK’s data watchdog, told the BBC it was “making inquiries” with Microsoft about the tool after concerns were raised.

“We heard a clear signal that we can make it easier for people to choose to enable Recall on their Copilot+ PCs and improve privacy and security assurances,” Pavan Davuluri, the company’s vice president of Windows and devices, said on Friday.

Mr. Davuluri shared the update in a file Blog post.

The Summoner was featured prominently during the reveal of Microsoft’s new PCs at its developers conference in May. The company relies on artificial intelligence to increase demand for its devices.

Executive Vice President Yousef Mahdi said during the event’s keynote that the feature used artificial intelligence to “enable access to virtually anything you’ve seen on your computer” and likened it to having a photographic memory.

Although this is something a lot of other devices do, the tool also takes screenshots every few seconds and searches for them as well.

Microsoft said it has “integrated privacy into the design of Recall” from the beginning and users will have control over what is captured — such as choosing not to capture certain websites or not capture private browsing on the Microsoft Edge browser.

She said changes to the feature will give people a “clearer choice” to opt-in to saving screenshots while setting up computers, and will be turned off by default.

Users will also be required to use Windows’ “Hello” authentication process to enable the tool, and will also be asked to “verify presence” if they want to view or search through their timeline of saved activity in Recall.

The updates will be implemented before the launch of Copilot+ PCs on June 18.

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