Total Recall

Microsoft can't awaken from their security nightmare
Microsoft’s all-knowing Recall AI feature is being delayed
Microsoft needs more time to test Recall’s security.

Announce. Alter. Delay. Not exactly your typical software release cycle. But such is the place Microsoft finds themselves in with their "Recall" feature, which was set to be the marquee feature of their new "Copilot+ PC" initiative. Now they'll launch without it. Here's Tom Warren:

Microsoft is planning to launch its new Copilot Plus PCs next week without its controversial Recall feature that screenshots everything you do on these new laptops. The software maker is holding back Recall so it can test it with the Windows Insider program, after originally promising to ship Recall as an opt-in feature with additional 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,” says Microsoft in an updated blog post. “When Recall (preview) becomes available in the Windows Insider Program, we will publish a blog post with details on how to get the preview.”

Again, this is different from the update a week ago, where Microsoft decided to make the feature opt-in rather than opt-out, alongside and a handful of other tweaks in response to the backlash against the feature, mainly from within the security community. This is, wait for it... a total recall.

Well, to be fair, Microsoft hadn't officially launched it yet, but they had shipped it within the 24H2 Windows update, which some users figured out how to enable despite not having the officially supported hardware for the feature. So Microsoft, yes, recalled that update. And will push it back out without Recall, the feature.

What a total disaster for Microsoft. Again, this is the feature no less than Satya Nadella kept touting to no end as pointing to the future of Windows. This was supposed to be the proof that the company was at the forefront of the AI revolution and they were going to leverage such features to vault Windows PC back to the vanguard, leaping MacBooks running Apple Silicon, at last.

And it's the worst timing possible as this is all playing out in the middle of the aforementioned Apple's WWDC event, where they kicked things off on Monday with their answers in AI. And those answers are heavily based around what else, security. Cut to the scene of 50 Cent just laughing and speeding away.

In other bad timing:

Microsoft’s decision to delay Recall comes just after vice chair and president Brad Smith testified before the House Homeland Security Committee today. Smith said that Microsoft is putting security above everything, as part of its Secure Future Initiative (SFI). “It is more important even than the company’s work on artificial intelligence,” says Smith.

In other words, they had no choice but to pull the feature now. But how did it even get this far?

I reported earlier today in Notepad that Recall was originally created before Microsoft’s big SFI overhaul begun. Recall was developed in secret at Microsoft, and it wasn’t even tested publicly with Windows Insiders. Microsoft subsequently identified some of the security issues with Recall and started to develop and test changes to the experience in recent months. It clearly now needs more time to make sure these changes stand up to its promise of putting security above AI and everything else.

You have to wonder where Microsoft goes from here. They'll rework Recall and make sure that it's up to security snuff, but is the feature now tainted? Will this fiasco bleed into mainstream awareness, perhaps bolster by general unease around AI? You can easily see Thanksgiving table discussions around not turning on "Microsoft's creepy AI spying software". Time for a reboot? Already?

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