Microsoft's New 'Recall' Feature Raises Privacy Concerns, Elon Musk Calls It 'Dystopian'


Microsoft's 'Recall' Feature Stirs Privacy Controversy, Draws Musk's Ire

In a move that has stoked privacy concerns, Microsoft has unveiled a new artificial intelligence feature for its Copilot+ PCs that will allow users to visually revisit and search their past computer activities.

The "Recall" tool, announced ahead of Microsoft's annual Build developer conference, operates by having Windows computers take behind-the-scenes screenshots of all on-screen actions. Users can then leverage AI search capabilities to analyze those prior screenshots and surface relevant past visual moments based on text queries.

While Microsoft touts Recall as a way to easily retrieve digital memories that may be difficult to describe in words, the notion of constant recording and AI analysis has raised red flags among privacy advocates.

Billionaire Elon Musk was among the first to slam the new feature, comparing it to a dystopian episode of the sci-fi series Black Mirror. "This is a Black Mirror episode," Musk tweeted Monday night, referring to the show's "The Entire History of You" episode depicting a future where people have memory implants to record and replay life experiences.

"Definitely turning this 'feature' off," Musk added.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella maintained that Recall processing occurs locally on users' PCs, not uploaded to Microsoft servers. "That's why Recall works as a magical thing because I can trust it, that it is on my computer," he said.

However, Nadella acknowledged the feature may give some users pause. "We are at the very early stages of understanding how our relationship with AI agents should be shaped by us primarily, because that's the only way to build trust," he stated. "It's a personal, maybe even spiritual, decision."

Microsoft has made it possible for users to fully disable Recall through their computer settings or add websites to an exclusion list to prevent certain content from being processed.

As AI capabilities rapidly evolve, Microsoft's Recall tool highlights rising tensions around protecting personal privacy while unleashing powerful new technologies. While potentially convenient for some, it has also fanned fears about unchecked corporate surveillance reminiscent of science fiction nightmares.