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Recall has been recalled as Microsoft wipes new AI tool from Insider program

The controversial AI tool has been shelved just as soon as it was announced.
Last Updated on June 24, 2024
Recall has been recalled as Microsoft wipes new AI tool from Insider program
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In a dramatic turn since this week’s Microsoft Copilot+ PC launch, one of it’s supposed hallmark features has been abruptly recalled. The ironically-named Recall was set to be a standout feature of Microsoft’s new range of AI-powered Surface devices, but after initially being withheld for Windows Insider Program members to test appropriately, it has now seemingly been scrapped from even that for the time being.

Recall: A Very Brief History

First announced as launching with the latest generation of Surface tablets and laptops, Recall was packaged with Cocreator and a gamut of other AI-powered features in Copilot+. Recall would dynamically analyze and track your device history, allowing you to use neural keyword searching to “recall” any information you had seen. Whether it was a shared image on social media, a detail from a document or an email conversation, your PC’s activity would all be screened through Recall. This was done by having the app effectively record your screen usage on the PC it was installed on, logging and learning from what it saw. This meant that all apps, Microsoft or not, could be accessed and viewed by Recall at any time.

If you read that and immediately began worrying about data protection, you’re not alone: Microsoft had to quickly reassure people that all information was stored locally on your device and was securely protected against data breaches. You could also tweak and change settings to tailor recall to your liking. Many weren’t convinced, however, and Recall garnered some hefty controversy in its brief lifespan.

Though this isn’t Windows’ first foray with AI-powered tools, it is their largest, and accommodating new Copilot+ PCs has already begun. Recently it was confirmed that a Windows 11 update would remove functionality from previous models such as shortcuts and desktop access to add to the appeal of the Copilot+ range. In a short space of time, Copilot+ has gone from anticipated to absent.

Recall’s gradual recession from a public launch began not long after it’s announcement. Recall was postponed from launching in line with the aforementioned new Surface devices. In a press release on the 13th June, Microsoft alluded to the issue being one of security:

Today, we are communicating an additional update on the Recall (preview) feature for Copilot+ PCs. Recall will now shift from a preview experience broadly available for Copilot+ PCs on June 18, 2024, to a preview available first in the Windows Insider Program (WIP) in the coming weeks. Following receiving feedback on Recall from our Windows Insider Community, as we typically do, we plan to make Recall (preview) available for all Copilot+ PCs coming soon.  

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. 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. Additionally, as we shared in our May 3 blog, security is our top priority at Microsoft, in line with our Secure Future Initiative (SFI). This is reflected in additional security protections we are providing for Recall content, including “just in time” decryption protected by Windows Hello Enhanced Sign-in Security (ESS), so Recall snapshots will only be decrypted and accessible when the user authenticates.

Source: Pavan Davuluri, Windows

Given that Recall is effectively recording your activity at all times, security is an utmost concern – so a statement such as this sent alarm bells ringing for many. To help test these new security protocols, Recall was set to go through a phase of testing with the Windows Insider Program before the general release. The speed between announcement and postponement was shocking, and suggested a serious issue with Recall’s functionality – or worse, security.

Now, just a week later, it has been all but confirmed that Recall will be indefinitely unavailable for even Windows Insiders. New Windows 11 builds with Recall implemented have been frozen and replaced with a new update that is seemingly sans-Recall. Whatever Recall’s flaw is, be it controversy, functionality or security; Microsoft doesn’t want even it’s QA department to try it out. As such, don’t expect to see Recall any time soon.

Another Fumbled AI Program?

AI is a major buzzword in technology spheres at present, with every industry looking to innovate Artificial Intelligence in its products. However, like any historic gold rush, there’s a base level of failed launches and fumbled releases. Can we chalk Recall up as one of these – poorly thought out and lacking full testing?

It’s difficult to say, as Recall may rear its head again in some new form down the line, depending on whether Microsoft can fix its clear issues. Thankfully, Microsoft made the tactful decision to swallow the bad PR and recall Recall, rather than launch a potentially disastrous AI program with their new systems. Given that Windows 11 usership is already far below average, controversy around AI security may have sunk Copilot+ for good.

Regardless of Recall’s fate, it does serve as a teachable moment for tech companies. Microsoft has been vocal about its development of new AI computers, and have effectively put the technology front and center in all of its product roadmaps. But even one of the largest tech conglomerates in the world managed to get within days of launching a new AI program before shelving it. The rush to join the AI train mustn’t come at the cost of quality control and testing.

Angus Warrender is a PCGuide Writer and Editor. He's interested in a range of tech, from cameras to consoles, and has an eye for spotting the best products on the market!