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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2019 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk



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The spy within (Windows)

24 May 2024

Yes, it's yet another AI-focused column today, thanks to the almost uncontrolled rush towards harnessing this technology for financial gain.

This time it's Microsoft who have announced that Windows will soon be keeping a constant watching eye on everything which appears on your computer's display.

Billing it as a safety feature, Microsoft's new "Recall" system that will, according to the company, take a screenshot of your display every few seconds and archive that in case you wish to go back and revisit whatever you were doing.

If you hit the "recall" button, Windows will then use AI to determine exactly which of the screen-shots best matches what you're looking for and retreive it.

Sounds great... if you're a hacker or cybercrim that is.

The number of ways in which this trove of your computing history could be used or abused by parties who might not have your best interests in mind, is enormous.

I'm sure it would be the first thing that law-enforcement officials would be looking at if you were ever suspected of committing a crime -- just like your search history but even more potentially incriminating.

Ah... so only those with something to hide have anything to fear from this Recall function?

I'm afraid not.

Maybe you've been reviewing your online banking details or you legitimately access systems which contain sensitive personal information... I bet your average blackmailing hacker would just *love* to get their hands on those dumps, for obvious reasons.

Of course Microsoft will tell you that you can opt-out but, as we've seen of late, those promises are often hollow. Have you ever tried opting out of Microsoft's regular updates to Windows? Have you tried to install Windows 11 recently without being forced to create a Microsoft account (like you once could?).

I'm sorry but the "optional" of today pretty quickly becomes the "manadatory" of tomorrow and you can bet that once "big brother" sees just how powerful this tool could be when it comes to keeping the great unwashed in compliance with their diktats -- well it's obvious that any choice we have in the use of this feature will soon be lost to "safety and security".

What's more, so long as the Recall function becomes a baked-in, intrinsic part of Windows, you know that it could be turned on remotely at the flick of a switch -- either by Microsoft, our loving/caring government or any old hacker who decides they might profit from it.

No computer connected to the internet is truly secure (just ask Microsoft about all those US government email accounts that got breached a little while back). If they can't guarantee the safety of government accounts can they really promise us that this feature won't also become a tool for hackers and tyranical governments?

Of course I am personally unconcerned about Recall.

I'm not going to claim it's because "I have nothing to hide" -- it's because I will continue to use Linux.

No ads on the toolbar, no "telemetry" reporting my every action to a corporate giant, no nascent vulnerabilities masquerading as "features" and no resetting of my carefully crafted configuration by remote control of Microsoft.

Anyone who values their privacy and freedom should not be using Windows. There are better options.

I'm far from a Linux zealot but I do know that I've been using it for over a decade and can never see myself going back to Windows... ever!

Carpe Diem folks!

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