Microsoft Recall delayed after privacy and security concerns

Microsoft has announced it will postpone the broadly available preview of the heavily discussed Recall feature for Copilot+ PCs. Copilot+ PCs are personal computers that come equipped with several artificial intelligence (AI) features.

The Recall feature tracks anything from web browsing to voice chats. The idea is that Recall can assist users to reconstruct past activity by taking regular screenshots of a user’s activity and storing them locally. The user would then be able to search the database for anything they’ve seen on their PC.

However, Recall received heavy criticism by security researchers and privacy advocates since it was announced last month. The ensuing discussion saw a lot of contradictory statements. For example, Microsoft claimed that Recall would be disabled by default, while the original documentation said otherwise.

Researchers demonstrated how easy it was to extract and search through Recall snapshots on a compromised system. While some may remark that the compromised system is the problem in that equation—and they are not wrong—Recall would potentially provide an attacker with a lot of information that normally would not be accessible. Basically, it would be a goldmine that spyware and information stealers could easily access and search.

In Microsoft’s own words:

“Recall does not perform content moderation. It will not hide information such as passwords or financial account numbers. That data may be in snapshots that are stored on your device, especially when sites do not follow standard internet protocols like cloaking password entry.”

Microsoft didn’t see the problem, with its vice chair and president, Brad Smith even using Recall as an example to demonstrate how Microsoft is secure during the Committee Hearing: A Cascade of Security Failures: Assessing Microsoft Corporation’s Cybersecurity Shortfalls and the Implications for Homeland Security.

But now things have changed, and Recall will now only be available for participants in the Windows Insider Program (WIP) in the coming weeks, instead of being rolled out to all Copilot+ PC users on June 18 as originally planned.

Another security measure taken only as an afterthought was that users will now have to log into Windows Hello in order to activate Recall and to view your screenshot timeline.

In its blog, Microsoft indicates it will act on the feedback it expects to receive from WIP users.

“This decision is rooted in our commitment to providing a trusted, secure and robust experience for all customers and to seek additional feedback prior to making the feature available to all Copilot+ PC users.”

Our hope is that the WIP community will convince Microsoft to abandon the whole Recall idea. If not, we will make sure to let you know how you can disable it or use it more securely if you wish to do so.

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