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Microsoft pauses new controversial AI feature over security concerns

An exploded view of new Microsoft Surface Laptops are seen during a showcase event of the company's AI assistant, Copilot, ahead of the annual Build developer conference
An exploded view of new Microsoft Surface Laptops are seen during a showcase event of the company's AI assistant, Copilot, ahead of the annual Build developer conference Copyright Lindsey Wasson/Copyright 2024 The AP.
Copyright Lindsey Wasson/Copyright 2024 The AP.
By Pascale Davies
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The Recall feature is supposed to sort through your emails but it does so by making a screenshot of everything you do.

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Microsoft is pulling back a new controversial feature, which privacy experts have criticised, that was set to be included in its new line of artificial intelligence (AI) PCs.

The Recall feature can take screenshots of everything you do on the laptop. Like many other devices, it can search through files, emails, and photos, but the fact that it can make a copy of it has raised concerns. 

The UK data watchdog authority said at the end of May it was making enquiries into Microsoft. 

The tech giant, which has invested billions in AI partnerships, such as with ChatGPT maker OpenAI, is planning to launch its new Copilot Plus PCs next week. 

Microsoft said on Thursday it is pausing Recall so it can test it with a smaller group and had originally said it would be an opt-in feature with extra security improvements. 

“We are adjusting the release model for Recall to leverage the expertise of the Windows Insider community to ensure the experience meets our high standards for quality and security,” Microsoft said in an updated blog post.

The company says Recall will make life easier for users as it can sort through emails and search files. Recall will now be available in the coming weeks for those in the Windows Insider Program.  

The decision to temporarily halt Recall comes after Microsoft’s vice chair and president Brad Smith told the US’s House and Homeland Security Committee that the company is putting security above all else 

“It is more important even than the company’s work on artificial intelligence,” Smith said.

There has been intense scrutiny over tech giants monopolising generative AI technology and quickly releasing AI models and products without knowing the impacts on society.

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