Recall, Windows 11’s controversial new memory function 🧠

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Microsoft is taking a daring gamble with Recall, a brand-new feature that will be integrated into future Copilot+ PCs running Windows 11. The aim? Radically transform the way you search and retrieve information from your computer.

A New Approach to Search 🔍

The Recall concept is simple but ambitious. The operating system will regularly take screenshots of everything you do – the applications you use, the websites you visit, the texts you type, and so on. Thanks to optical character recognition, these « snapshots » will be analyzed and indexed in a gigantic local database.

No need to remember the name of a file or folder. Simply enter a keyword in the Windows search field and Recall displays a timeline of all relevant contexts. You can then « scroll » back in time to find the information you’re looking for. It could be a document, an e-mail or a web page consulted weeks before.

Recall will even record your online meetings and transcribe voice exchanges, thanks to the Live Captions function. A real feat designed to give you a real « photographic memory » on your PC. But Recall’s benefits come at a price: confidentiality.

Confidentiality and security issues ⚠️

In fact, in order to function, this function must constantly « spy » on virtually all your activities on the computer. A highly intrusive level of tracking that is already raising serious concerns among computer security experts and defenders of digital freedoms.

Despite the ability to disable the function or delete snapshots at any time, several security experts have expressed concern. Data protection bodies such as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK have also voiced their concerns. They fear that Recall could be used for constant surveillance. The feature potentially endangers users’ privacy and exposes their data to hacking risks.

Abeba Birhane, AI researcher and Mozilla fellow, strongly criticizes the feature, calling it a means of surveillance and control of the masses. This concern is heightened by the fact that Recall records all manipulations and web browsing carried out with browsers other than Microsoft Edge, unless they are used in private mode.

Microsoft assures us that Recall data will be encrypted, anonymized and stored only locally on the PC. But the precise details of this privacy protection remain unclear. The Redmond giant will have to be convinced that there is no risk of leakage or malicious misappropriation.

Caution is all the more warranted given that Recall will be based on generative artificial intelligence models developed by OpenAI in particular. This technology is a « black box » that is already fuelling heated controversy about ethics and security.

Limited availability due to technical requirements ⏸️

It’s important to note that Recall will only be available on Copilot+ PCs. They require special hardware specifications, including a minimum of 256 GB of storage space. 50 GB must be free for Recall to function optimally. Microsoft has also provided mechanisms to manage the allocated storage space, with an option to delete old snapshots and create new ones.

In any case, this attractive but potentially unmanageable technological feat illustrates the growing challenges of privacy in the age of powerful AI. Microsoft will have to redouble its efforts to allay fears even before the launch of Recall.

Sources : 01Net, The Verge

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