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Microsoft's latest AI tool alarms privacy experts

Microsoft's latest AI tool alarms privacy experts



Microsoft's hottest new AI feature has sparked concerns that it could be misused.

This week, the company showed off a new tool called Recall for Windows computers. It acts as a personal time machine, allowing users to instantly recall documents, images, websites, and anything else that appears on the screen. This is different from keyword search as this tool periodically saves screenshots of the user's screen and saves them directly to their device. AI is then used to process the data and make it searchable.

For example, if someone has previously searched for a green dress or the name of a local ice cream shop, they can ask the feature to recall the history that appears on the screen.

So-called semantic search is a major step forward for AI, but it comes at a time when the industry is moving very fast and government regulators, businesses and consumers are still figuring out how to use the technology responsibly.

Jen Golbeck, an AI professor at the University of Maryland who focuses on privacy, said the recall feature could cause nightmares if the device fell into the wrong hands.

The data may remain on your device, but that doesn't mean others can't access it, she says: Even if you use incognito mode or clear your history, the tool has access to everything you see on your screen, so you have no options to protect yourself.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the UK's independent data protection and freedom of information regulator, told CNN it is investigating the tool to understand what safeguards are in place to protect user privacy. he said.

The ICO said in a statement that it expects organizations to be transparent with users about how their data is used and to process personal data only to the extent necessary to achieve a specific purpose.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment. CEO Satya Nadella said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal ahead of the launch on Monday that web searches would only have to be done on the Microsoft Edge web browser and that screenshots would never leave users' computers.

“You have to combine two things: this is my computer, this is my recall, and it's all done locally,” he said.

Jeff Braver, CEO of market research firm CCS Insight, said that makes the issue less of a concern.

While some backlash against the feature isn't surprising, Braver said it's an overreaction, given that the data is stored exclusively on the device and is entirely under the user's control.

You can decide whether to turn on the feature during the device setup process, as well as customize and blacklist the apps and websites Recall can access.

These controls suggest the feature is built with security and privacy at its core, he said. Recall won't appeal to everyone, but the utility it provides can be significant.

But Golbeck said that in cases where that protection isn't enough, such as a journalist from a hostile country, someone trying to get out of an abusive relationship, someone looking for sensitive medical information or an employee whose boss wants to go after them. listed. She believes issues with this tool are likely to have the biggest impact on the workplace.

We know that what we do on our devices is monitored at work, but many people do personal things on their work computers, even if they just remain on the device. All of that has been archived and made available to the IT department, she added.

Golbeck said that despite its benefits, technology is too often developed without considering its malicious use.

What we've seen over the past 15 years is that every potential malicious use case has come true in some way. People will want to use this great feature without understanding the privacy risks of having everything you do permanently recorded.

Similar reactions have emerged in the past to biometric password features like fingerprints, facial recognition and iris scans. To overcome some of the initial concerns, Blaber said Microsoft and its partners need to prove the value, security and privacy of their products in the real world.

Still, Michela Menting, senior research director at ABI Research, considers the feature a step back in terms of privacy.

The argument that hackers need physical access to even operate Recall is short-sighted at best. That's because there are many very sophisticated ways threat actors can exploit such a valuable tool, she said. All it takes is time and effort to find a way.




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