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This will be preaching to the choir for some readers, as you didn't exactly need another reason not to use Windows right? Microsoft's new Recall AI will take screenshots of everything you do and that sounds truly terrible. Spyware as a service, courtesy of Microsoft's push to stick AI into everything.

You might think I'm being perhaps a bit sensational here or even clickbaity, but no, this is actually genuinely what Recall does. As Microsoft said: "Recall uses Copilot+ PC advanced processing capabilities to take images of your active screen every few seconds", and not only just on their new ARM PCs, they said it will roll out to x86 platforms too via a Windows update.

What's the point? It's to give you a special timeline of your day (it stores up to 3 months worth of what you do), allowing you to go back through it and find things, highlight things, open the original application shown in pictures and eventually open up whatever you were working on in the right application with the right content at the time. Basically, some fancy-pants AI search going over everything you've done.

Microsoft do say the storage is local to your device, and is "protected using data encryption on your device" and even using BitLocker if you're on Windows 11 Pro or an enterprise Windows 11 SKU. Microsoft also claim it doesn't share it anywhere else, at all, no advertisers or Microsoft themselves. But, how far do we trust data being fed into a black-box AI that no one can really see what it's doing huh?

Here's the thing: straight from their own FAQ (scroll down) it notes how "Recall does not perform content moderation" and it will "not hide information such as passwords or financial account numbers". Oh wow, that sure sounds good for your privacy doesn't it. But don't worry it "does not take snapshots of certain kinds of content, including InPrivate web browsing sessions in Microsoft Edge" and "material protected with digital rights management (DRM)" is also protected. We can't have Netflix or Disney getting annoyed with it taking a shot of that movie you watched, nope.

I'm not even what you may call a "privacy nut". I use big-name stuff all the time, my main browser is plain ol' Google Chrome and you get the idea. But still, this is super weird.

What happens if someone else gets access to your device? Lost, stolen, sold (and you forgot to wipe) and so on. If you get hacked, they'll end up seeing everything, it's another major attack point. Yeah great it's stored on your device, but people and companies get broken open all the time, malicious orgs will have a real party with your data. There's plenty of other times people may end up with access to your device to think about, I'm not going to list them all of course.

You can hear Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speak about it to The Wall Street Journal, skip to 3:23:

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No thanks. I'll pass, forever. I never want this. It feels creepy and gross.

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is already looking into it. No doubt others will be too. A privacy nightmare for everyone.

If you wish to try Linux, I can recommend Kubuntu which is my daily-driver.

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Liam Dawe May 23
Quoting: phil995511It is prohibited for an employer to spy on its employees in any way. This type of function is therefore formally prohibited in the professional field.
Depends where you are. Lots of companies in lots of countries already keep tabs on what employees are doing and looking at.
Pengling May 23
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Quoting: wvstolzing(which of course they won't because all the processing and storage will be 'in the cloud')
If I'm remembering right, they go out of their way to repeatedly point out that it's only stored locally (for now, knowing their track-record). I'm sure that pushing the benefits of processing and storing it on their computers will be the next step.

Last edited by Pengling on 23 May 2024 at 3:55 pm UTC
Lachu May 23
My English skills are poor. As I listening this video, I heard Nadela said first web browser was for Windows and that is not truth. Also, Nadela said it's your computer. What's a hell? Windows and owned PC? By whom? By Microsoft?
Pengling May 23
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Quoting: LachuAlso, Nadela said it's your computer.
Yet Windows dropped the term "My Computer" some time ago! They replaced it with "This Computer", which was obviously to lay the groundwork for control being taken away from users.

Quoting: LachuWindows and owned PC? By whom? By Microsoft?
I believe that's the idea, yeah. Pretty sure you already don't own your PC if you use Windows on it, though admittedly having not used it in 20 years, and only having checked things for others who needed the info at various points, I'm not up-to-date on their current terms.
Linux_Rocks May 23
Microsoft being evil, moar AI, and a Wall Street Journal YouTube video? Thanks, I hate it even more.
kaiman May 23
Saw some headlines and was hoping (against all odds) that Microsoft was finally recalling Windows. Bummer ...
wvstolzing May 23
Quoting: kaimanBummer ...

This is Nadella's doing though, Bummer hasn't been the CEO since 2014.
Kimyrielle May 23
Personally, it just left me stunned about how there really doesn't seem to be any limit on the absurd things corporations (and governments) are inflicting on us these days. I am pretty sure nobody asked for that feature. And it's so in-your-face obviously problematic in so many ways that even Microsoft must have known it. They really don't care. Not one bit. We're just sheep to them. That's the simple truth.

The sad thing is that close to 100% of all Windows users won't even realize that this "feature" is there. They will never even realize that they're getting permanently watched. And knowing MS, you will need a registry hack to disable it, or at least click through three layers of settings in places you wouldn't look for them.
Speaking as a member in good standing of the choir, yes this is horrible.

I was also thinking "Why? Imagining for a second that they're not lying through their teeth about harvesting your information with this, what on earth is the point for them of doing this?" Then I got to

QuoteBut don't worry it "does not take snapshots of certain kinds of content, including InPrivate web browsing sessions in Microsoft Edge"
Ahhh, I see! It's a maneuver to force you to use Microsoft Edge instead of Chrome or Firefox. I'm sure there are other reasons, but that's one part I bet.
Quoting: whateverI'm absolutely 100% sure people will keep using Windows regardless, like everybody keeps using Chrome, despite all we know about Google and how they spy on their users ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Well, maybe, but somehow this feels more personal. I mean, I'm not going to predict that Windows market share will drop to 5% tomorrow as the news hits or anything, but I wouldn't be surprised if this caused a trickle of people leaving.
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