Microsoft’s new total Recall feature might be a privacy step too far

Earlier this week US tech giant Microsoft launched ‘Copilot+ PCs’, which specialise in productivity-focused AI. But one of the features is already testing some emerging boundaries.

Scott Bicheno

May 22, 2024

3 Min Read
source: microsoft youtube

As the name indicates, Copilot+ PCs are designed to put Microsoft’s Copilot AI platform front and centre. There are all sorts of ways Copilot can make individuals and companies more productive, from automatic meeting transcripts to the automation of a growing number of simple, repetitive tasks. One new major new feature announced this week was Recall, which seems to be able to access everything you have done on your PC over an unspecified period of time.

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office thinks this may present some privacy issues as it essentially represents a constant stream of screenshots. Microsoft seems to have anticipated this and put an emphasis on privacy in its FAQs for Recall. Nonetheless, it seems to be active by default and, while people have been free to take manual screenshots for years, some may be unhappy to know that their every interaction with a given device is being permanently logged.

“We expect organisations to be transparent with users about how their data is being used and only process personal data to the extent that it is necessary to achieve a specific purpose,” said an ICO spokesperson in an emailed statement. “Industry must consider data protection from the outset and rigorously assess and mitigate risks to peoples' rights and freedoms before bringing products to market. We are making enquiries with Microsoft to understand the safeguards in place to protect user privacy.”

“Recall leverages your personal semantic index, built and stored entirely on your device,” said Microsoft in its blog on the matter. “Your snapshots are yours; they stay locally on your PC. You can delete individual snapshots, adjust and delete ranges of time in Settings, or pause at any point right from the icon in the System Tray on your Taskbar. You can also filter apps and websites from ever being saved. You are always in control with privacy you can trust.”

Right now Recall is in its ‘preview phase’ and seems to be designed to run best on the aforementioned Copilot+ PCs. Intriguingly, it seems the only chip partner for the first wave of these is Qualcomm, meaning they’re running Windows on Arm, as opposed to x86, which is the platform used by Intel and AMD. Microsoft has been trying to get Windows to work as well on Arm chips as x86 ones for years and this launch indicates they think they’ve finally cracked it.

“Copilot+ PCs powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon X Series deliver performance per watt leadership to the Windows ecosystem while also powering groundbreaking AI experiences and exceptional battery life” said Pavan Davuluri, VP of Windows + Devices at Microsoft. “This is an inflection point for the Windows PC ecosystem, enabled by our deep partnership with Qualcomm. I am thrilled to be able to launch innovative Copilot+ PCs experiences and devices with Snapdragon, including Surface, that have leading performance and energy efficiency.”


Microsoft will presumably listen closely to the ICO when it comes to privacy but regulators and lawmakers are always going to be playing catch-up when it comes to the privacy implications of AI. How long before we see a similar feature on smartphones, where the line between work and personal is more blurred? While there’s no stopping technological progress, they should work to ensure maximum human control and transparency as the machines we use grow ever more omniscient.

About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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