July 24, 2024

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Awkward Microsoft Recall – The Verge

Awkward Microsoft Recall – The Verge

Last week, it revealed that Windows engineers at Microsoft were scrambling to secure the controversial AI-powered recall feature in time for its planned debut on June 18. Hours later, Microsoft announced that the feature that takes screenshots of almost everything you do on new Qualcomm-powered laptops has been pulled.

Copilot Plus PCs shipped earlier this week without a recall, and Microsoft has modified the setup process to remove it from Windows 11 — it’s now a “coming soon” feature for these devices. The recall program still appears prominently in Microsoft’s marketing materials, indicating that the company is confident it will return very soon.

After developing Recall largely in secret outside of the usual public Windows Insider testing, Microsoft is now relying on this community of thousands to help test the new AI feature on new Copilot Plus devices. Recall will also be an optional feature with additional security improvements to address researchers’ concerns.

Microsoft first announced its changes to Recall on June 7, less than two weeks before it was scheduled to ship on the new devices. This rush to fix Recall’s security issues was always a big ask, especially having to encrypt the database in a timely manner and implement Windows Hello authentication as well. I understand that Microsoft was working on some of these changes before security researchers raised recall concerns, but OEMs already had the final Windows bits shipped on the devices, which further complicated the situation.

The surprise decision not to ship Recall at launch came on Thursday, June 13, just five days before the Copilot Plus PCs ship. Sources told me that OEMs were informed of the delay before Microsoft’s public acknowledgment. But the security researcher Kevin Beaumont got wind to announce the recall, forcing Microsoft to edit an earlier blog post in response to press inquiries.

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I had planned to write about my time with Recall over the past couple of weeks, but since the feature is now delayed, I’ll wait to see what changes before writing up my final impressions. In my limited testing of an early version of Recall, I noticed that the feature failed to properly filter URLs from its capture method…