Microsoft Delays Controversial Recall Feature, Undercutting Copilot+ PC Launch

Microsoft is pitching Recall, which takes periodic screenshots of a computer’s screen to enable new search capabilities, as a key feature for Copilot+ PCs. Launching next week, these devices are what the company is calling ‘the fastest, most intelligent Windows PCs ever built.’

Microsoft said it’s delaying the public release of Recall, the controversial, AI-enabled search feature that will be exclusive to forthcoming PCs under its new Copilot+ program.

The Redmond, Wash.-based tech giant said on Thursday that it will now make Recall available to members of the Windows Insider Program—where the company tests new features—in the “coming weeks.” It had previously planned to make a preview version of the feature “broadly available for Copilot+ PCs” when the devices launch next week on June 18.

[Related: AMD’s Ryzen AI 300 Chips For Copilot+ PCs Take Aim At Qualcomm, Apple And Intel]

Microsoft made the announcement in an update to a blog post from June 7, when it said it was improving Recall’s privacy and security safeguards in response to customer feedback.

“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,” read the update in a post attributed to Pavan Davuluri, corporate vice president of Windows and Devices.

“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,” the Microsoft executive added.

The decision was announced days after Apple revealed Apple Intelligence as its much-anticipated suite of AI features for iPhones, Macs and iPads in a move meant, in part, to challenge the rise of AI PCs in the Windows ecosystem. Microsoft’s rival said Apple Intelligence would set a “brand-new standard for privacy in AI.”

Announced at its Build 2024 conference last month, Microsoft has pitched Recall as a key feature for the forthcoming Copilot+ PCs, which the company is calling “the fastest, most intelligent Windows PCs ever built.”

The first wave of Copilot+ PCs coming next week are exclusively powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X processors, which are the first to provide high enough neural processing unit (NPU) performance to meet Microsoft’s requirements for supporting features like Recall.

Recall will enable users to search for things they’ve previously seen on their PC, but security and privacy experts have voiced concerns about the feature since it was revealed, mainly because it periodically takes a screenshot of a user’s screen to build an explorable visual timeline of nearly every action they make.

When Microsoft revealed the feature last month, it said the feature wouldn’t hide any sensitive or confidential information captured in the screenshots unless a user filters out specific applications or websites or browses privately on supported browsers such as Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Opera and Google Chrome. It was also confirmed at the time that Microsoft would keep Recall on by default for Copilot+ PCs.

In response to concerns by security and privacy experts that Recall could allow threat actors to “automate scraping everything you’ve ever looked at within seconds,” among other things, Microsoft announced last week on June 7 that it would make changes to Recall.

The company said it would improve the feature’s security and privacy safeguards by making it opt-in, requiring users to use Windows Hello to access Recall, requiring proof of presence to access Recall’s timeline and search, and adding “additional layers of data protection.”

In the Thursday update, Davuluri highlighted that the company is making these changes as part of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s pledge to prioritize security over new features. Nadella made the commitment in response to a scathing federal report on the company’s security practices.

“The development of Copilot+ PCs, Recall and Windows will continue to be guided by [Microsoft’s Secure Future Initiative],” he said.