Windows Recall: Permanent screen monitoring now only after activation
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Windows Recall: Permanent screen monitoring now only after activation

Debora Pape
Translation: machine translated

For a fortnight, the new Windows function Recall was criticised due to data protection concerns. Now Microsoft is responding and adapting the feature.

Great memory aid or permanent surveillance? Following strong criticism of the new recall function in Windows Copilot computers, Microsoft has reacted and toned down the feature. It will no longer be activated by default and can only be accessed after logging in with Windows Hello.

Memory support or monitoring?

Recall is part of the new Copilot Plus computers, which will be available from 18 June. Microsoft unveiled this new type of computer on 20 May. Microsoft is promoting Recall as a memory aid that will make it easier to find information or files in the browser, Explorer or other applications. AI is also to be used for this. With the help of a timeline, you can use Recall to jump back to specific points in time in the past and see what you were doing on your computer at that time.

Windows regularly saves screenshots of your screen locally on your computer. They include everything that is visible on the screen at that time, including sensitive content such as login masks. AI algorithms analyse the content of the screenshots using image recognition. This allows you to search for specific keywords in Recall and display corresponding screenshots.

Recall harbours major risks in terms of data protection

The collection of potentially sensitive data in the screenshots and their unencrypted storage and analysis have raised the alarm among data protection campaigners. The function has been criticised worldwide.

This is a permanent monitoring of screen activity. Recall was originally supposed to be activated by default. The function makes it possible to check exactly what the user has been doing at certain times. This is a major risk if a device is lost and also for companies that like to monitor their employees. A hacker has apparently already managed to gain unauthorised access to data via Recall. He thereby drew attention to the security gaps.

Since Recall also takes screenshots during professional video calls, people who may not have given their consent or even know about Recall appear in the screenshots.

It is also unclear whether and how Microsoft could possibly use the collected information for its own purposes. At the moment, the screenshots are only supposed to be stored locally. The criticism of Recall was so severe that there were even assumptions that the function would be cancelled altogether.

Microsoft's response to the Recall criticism

Microsoft has now reacted and at least adapted the function. Recall is no longer activated by default, as originally planned. When setting up your Copilot Plus computer, you must agree to its use. Recall is also linked to Windows Hello. This means that you will have to log in with your Windows PIN, fingerprint or facial recognition to access the data stored by Recall. This should protect your data from unauthorised access.

In addition, the screenshots taken and the information obtained from them will be encrypted.

Header image: Shutterstock/JLStock

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Feels just as comfortable in front of a gaming PC as she does in a hammock in the garden. Likes the Roman Empire, container ships and science fiction books. Focuses mostly on unearthing news stories about IT and smart products.

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