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UK Data Watchdog Questions Microsoft’s AI Over Frequent Screenshots

Key Insights:

  • UK ICO probes Microsoft’s Recall, raising privacy alarms over constant screenshot capture on Copilot+ PCs.
  • Microsoft’s Recall feature is under scrutiny for potential privacy risks despite assurances of local data storage and user control.
  • Privacy experts worry Recall could chill user activity by recording screens, sparking ICO’s inquiry into Microsoft’s new AI tool.

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is scrutinizing a new feature from Microsoft that periodically screenshots users’ laptops. This feature, called Recall, will be available on Microsoft’s upcoming Copilot+ PCs and is designed to store encrypted snapshots locally on the device. The ICO has expressed concerns regarding the privacy implications of this feature and is seeking more information from Microsoft about the safeguards in place to protect user privacy.

Privacy Concerns and Campaigners’ Reactions

Privacy advocates have raised alarms over Recall, labeling it a potential “privacy nightmare.” Dr. Kris Shrishak, an advisor on AI and privacy, pointed out that constant screenshotting could deter individuals from visiting certain websites or accessing confidential documents. Recall’s ability to search through all past activity, including files, emails, photos, and browsing history, combined with the frequent screenshots, has led to significant apprehension among privacy experts.

Microsoft has assured users that Recall is an optional feature and has emphasized its commitment to privacy and security. The company stated that users could limit the snapshots Recall collects and that all data is stored locally without being accessed by Microsoft or external parties. They also noted that accessing these screenshots would require physical access to the device, making remote breaches more challenging.

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Despite these assurances, the ICO has stressed the importance of companies rigorously assessing and mitigating risks to people’s rights and freedoms before launching new products. An ICO spokesperson confirmed that they are inquiring into the measures Microsoft has implemented to protect user privacy.


Safeguards and User Controls

Microsoft has built privacy controls into Recall, allowing users to exclude certain websites from being captured. Additionally, private browsing sessions in Microsoft’s Edge browser will not be recorded. However, experts like Daniel Tozer, a data and privacy expert at Keystone Law, have drawn parallels between Recall and dystopian scenarios depicted in media, emphasizing the need for a lawful basis for recording and displaying users’ personal information.

Tozer also highlighted concerns about the confidentiality of information displayed on the screen, particularly in professional environments. The potential for capturing proprietary or sensitive information without explicit consent raises questions about the adequacy of user and access controls.

Potential Risks and User Safety

Jen Caltrider, who leads a privacy team at Mozilla, expressed concerns that Recall could pose risks if someone with knowledge of a user’s password gains access to their device. This could lead to detailed scrutiny of the user’s history, including sensitive information. Caltrider emphasized that the snapshots could include passwords or financial account information, which might be stored if websites do not follow standard internet protocols like cloaking password entries.

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Microsoft has acknowledged that Recall will not moderate or remove information from screenshots containing sensitive data. This has prompted experts to advise caution when using devices with Recall for activities involving personal or confidential information.

The ICO’s inquiry into Microsoft’s Recall feature reflects broader concerns about the balance between technological advancements and privacy rights. As the use of AI-driven tools continues to grow, regulatory bodies like the ICO play a crucial role in ensuring that innovations do not come at the expense of user privacy and security.

The outcome of the ICO’s investigation could set important precedents for how similar technologies are developed and implemented in the future. For now, users are advised to remain vigilant and make informed decisions about enabling such features on their devices.

Editorial credit: Mojahid Mottakin /

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Curtis Dye

Curtis is a cryptocurrency news and analytics author with a focus on DeFi, BLockchain, CeFi, NFTs etc. He has publication skills such as SEO optimization, Wordpress, Surfer tools and aids his viewers with insights on the volatile crypto industry.

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