Why Microsoft’s New AI Feature Has Prompted Major Privacy Concerns

2 minute read

Microsoft introduced a new series of products, named Copilot+ PCs, that are designed to be integrated with artificial intelligence technology in mind. The company has reportedly struggled with the laptop market in recent months, with sales of the flagship surface pro laptops declining significantly in 2023.

But the new AI device features have raised privacy concerns. In particular, one feature that Microsoft refers to as “Recall” allows the device to take snapshots of a person’s screen every few seconds. These screenshots are encrypted and then stored locally on the individual’s device.

Microsoft said that this feature was designed to “solve one of the most frustrating problems we encounter daily—finding something we know we have seen before on our PC.” The corporation added that this feature will allow users to search through their computer’s history in an intuitive way based on “relationships and associations unique to each of our individual experiences.” 

However, just two days after the product was announced, the Information Commissioner’s Office, a U.K. data watchdog, said it would be reaching out to Microsoft amid growing concerns about the features' implications for consumer privacy. 

“This could be a privacy nightmare," Dr. Kris Shrishak, an adviser on AI and privacy, told the BBC. "The mere fact that screenshots will be taken during use of the device could have a chilling effect on people."

On its website, Microsoft says that the feature is “optional” and that users can “make choices about what snapshots Recall collects and stores.” 

TIME has reached out to Microsoft for further comment.

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