Windows 11's Recall feature is on by default on Copilot+ PCs

Disabling the AI snapshotter requires a trip into Settings for ordinary users

Microsoft's controversial Recall feature is enabled by default during Windows setup and users must delve into Windows Settings to turn it off.

Over the weekend, The Verge's Tom Warren posted screenshots showing Microsoft's latest Out-of-Box Experience (OOBE), in which the Recall feature can't be turned off unless the user opens Settings after completing setup.

The feature remains a preview, and the first Copilot+ PCs that will support it are not due to hit the market until June 18 – although users have shown it running on less exotic hardware. This date means there is still time for changes to be made, particularly in light of the controversy surrounding Recall, described by one cybersecurity researcher as "a keylogger" built into Windows.

Recall takes regular snapshots of a user's Windows activity, which it stores locally. The user can then step back and find what they were doing in the days, weeks, or months previously. The magic of AI is employed to help a user search for what they want and suggest actions.

It's also a potential privacy nightmare. Despite updates to its documentation to include browsers other than Edge in its list of "supported browsers" able to filter out specific websites and private browsing activity, Microsoft support still notes:

Recall does not perform content moderation. It will not hide information such as passwords or financial account numbers. That data may be in snapshots that are stored on your device, especially when sites do not follow standard internet protocols like cloaking password entry.

Word is circulating that Microsoft might tweak the OOBE to stop the feature from being enabled by default. Steven Sinofsky, who played a part in bringing Windows 8 to the world, noted that the default was "the least problematic part of the feature."

Sinofsky also observed: "Features that are the future of computing should be on by default and turning things off should not be part of any routine or default customer experience. If it can't be on then it isn't a platform feature."

As far as Microsoft is concerned, AI is the future of computing. It has to be since the company needs to show some return on its investment, and Windows 11 has yet to set the market alight.

If Recall were something consumers had to opt into rather than opt out of, it would be easy to imagine the feature quietly fading away. Enterprise administrators can already disable snapshot saving via group or device management policy and are unlikely to re-enable it until regulators have finished poking around Microsoft's plans.

With AI on the roadmap for the vast majority of Microsoft's products, making Recall an option that is not enabled by default would call into question its commitment to the strategy. Even if many privacy and security experts would welcome the backtracking. ®

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