Microsoft’s Recall feature, the AI-enabled timeline for Windows 11 on Copilot+ PCs, will be available only to members of the Windows Insider Program in June, instead of the initial planned public preview slated for June 18. This change follows Microsoft’s decision last week to make Recall opt-in instead of enabled by default. Other users will have access to Recall “soon,” after the Redmond giant has had time to respond to feedback from the Windows Insider preview.

Recall takes snapshots of a user’s activity on their Copilot+ PC, enabling generative AI to trawl through all of that activity to answer questions phrased in natural ways. It could be a benefit for performing open-ended searches (such as “Show me the spreadsheet my boss sent to me yesterday”), but some security researchers have expressed concerns about how that activity is stored.

An example of a query in Recall. Image: Microsoft

Recall feature will be previewed in Windows Insider Program

On June 13, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Windows and Devices Pavan Davuluri wrote an update to the blog post written about shifting Recall to opt-in last week.

“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,” he wrote. “This decision is rooted in our commitment to providing a trusted, secure and robust experience for all customers and to seek additional feedback prior to making the feature available to all Copilot+ PC users.”

Microsoft pointed out that work on Recall is guided by the Secure Future Initiative, an ongoing attempt to improve security methods and practices. After Windows Insider members have a chance to provide feedback, Recall will be made available to anyone with a Copilot+ PC. People interested in the Windows Insider program can join for free.

Microsoft switched Recall from active by default to opt-in

While Microsoft reassured customers data from Recall would only be stored locally, security researchers such as Kevin Beaumont pointed out attackers don’t even need physical access to a Copilot+ laptop to exfiltrate Recall data. About a week after this discovery, Microsoft made some changes to how Recall will operate.

  • Recall will be opt-in.
  • In order to use Recall, you’ll need to enroll in Windows Hello — which lets you sign in with facial recognition, fingerprint or a PIN instead of a password — and provide proof of presence such as your face being visible to the laptop.
  • Encrypting the search index database Recall uses.

SEE: Curious about Microsoft Copilot? Our cheat sheet has the details on Redmond’s AI PC plans and more.

How to disable Recall

Recall has proven a controversial feature since it was announced, primarily due to privacy and security concerns. Microsoft has since made it an opt-in feature rather than being enabled by default, and committed to enhancing the security measures around the data it stores.

While Recall is still unreleased, some members of the Windows Insider program have had the chance to explore a preview version of the feature and have shared how it can be disabled.

  1. Open Windows Settings and navigate to Privacy & Security in the sidebar.
  2. Select Recall & Snapshots to view the Recall settings.
  3. Click Delete Snapshots and then Delete All to clear Recall’s history.
  4. Click the Save Snapshots switch to turn it to the Off settings to disable Recall.

Microsoft faces security probe

The changes to Recall come amid discussion of Microsoft’s overall security posture in the U.S. Congress. On June 13, Microsoft President Brad Smith spoke to the House Homeland Security Committee about a federal report suggesting Microsoft’s security stance contributed to a breach last year by state actors.

How does Recall compare to Apple Intelligence?

Apple’s answer to Copilot+ PCs is its upcoming Apple Intelligence, created in part through a partnership with OpenAI. Apple Intelligence works mostly by letting Siri respond to more natural questions, as well as providing the summarization and translation functions generative AI is proven to perform. Apple Intelligence runs on-device and on Apple servers when needed. Since it was only announced this week, security researchers haven’t had as much time to dig into how Apple Intelligence works.

But, having waited longer than its competitors to integrate AI into its laptops, Apple seems to have a better awareness of potential security problems. At WWDC, Apple’s Craig Federighi, senior vice president of software engineering, said, “You should not have to hand over all the details of your life to be warehoused and analyzed in someone’s AI cloud.”

Note: The section “How to disable Recall” was contributed by Fiona Jackson. 

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