Microsoft Recall takes constant screenshots of everything you do

About a month ago we talked about the rumours, but now the feature’s officially announced: Microsoft is going to keep track of everything you do on your Windows machine by taking a constant stream of screenshots, and then making said screenshots searchable by using things like text and image recognition. As you might expect, this is a privacy nightmare, and the details and fine print accompanying this new feature do not exactly instill confidence.

First, the feature is a lot dumber than you might expect, as it doesn’t perform any “content moderation”, as Microsoft calls it.

Note that 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.

↫ Privacy and control over your Recall experience

Well, Microsoft says Recall doesn’t do any content moderation, but that’s actually a flat-out lie. Recall will not show any content with DRM that happens to be on your screen, and private browsing sessions in Chromium-based browsers won’t be shown either. You can also exclude specific applications and websites – filtering websites, however, is only available in Edge. In other words, managing this privacy nightmare is entirely left up to the user… Except for DRM content, of course. The mouse must be pleased, after all.

It also seems Microsoft is enabling this feature by default for at least some business users, as machines managed with Microsoft Intune will have Recall enabled by default, and administrators will need to use Group Policy to disable it. There is no way in hell any company serious about data security will want Recall enabled, so I guess this can be added to the pile of headaches administrators already have to deal with.

My biggest worry is the usual slippery slope this feature represents. How long before governments will legally require a feature like this on all our computers? The more Microsoft and other companies brag about how easy and low-power stuff like this is, the more governments – already on the warpath when it comes to things like encrypted messaging – will want their hands on this.

This is such a bad idea.


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