MS Rethinks Windows 11 Constant Snooping AI Feature

John Lister's picture

Microsoft has backtracked on a new Windows 11 feature that screenshots a computer every few seconds. "Recall" will now be an opt-in tool that doesn't work by default.

The theory behind the tool is that it would be helpful for users to be able to find information from something they'd used or been work on, even if they couldn't remember precisely when and where.

That's inherently difficult to do through ordinary file or web searches, particularly if it involves an image. Searching the contents of different file types can be slow, while searching for something that isn't text can be difficult.

Massive Screenshot Database

Microsoft's solution was to use AI to figure out what the user was looking for and find the matching document, page or window. It decided that to make this work, the easiest solution was to take repeated screenshots and store them on the computer. The tool could then take the search query and use image recognition to find a match in the screenshot archive.

The processing power involved means it would only work on computers with a dedicated chip known as a neural processing unit. Microsoft calls these "Copilot+ class" computers, though they could become commonplace in more expensive PCs in the next few years. (Source:

Although Microsoft insisted the images would not be transferred off the computer or used for advertising, many critics were extremely concerned about the privacy and security implications.

Opt-In Only

The company now says it is beefing up encryption on the tool. Users will need biometric identification both to run the tool and to access any images that come up as results. The database of the search index will now be encrypted rather than just the images themselves.

It also drew attention to previously announced features including letting users control what is and is not included in screenshots, and a permanent icon that shows when the feature is or is not running and collecting screenshots.

Despite these changes, Microsoft concluded that users are skeptical about Recall. It's also announced that it will not be active by default. Instead, it will only run after users have specifically activated it. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Would you use such a feature if it was available? Could the benefits ever outweigh the privacy implications? Was Microsoft smart to switch to this being opt-in only?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Remember when people freaked out about having their recent documents displayed in the Start Menu in Windows XP due to 'major' privacy concerns? This new Windows 11 feature is just like that, but on steroids. In contrast, if Apple came out with this idea a little sooner, it would already be embedded in all iOS devices and embraced by millions.

Focused100's picture

I don't see the need for this feature mostly as most issues are handled by local tech support.