These tech firms care more about AI than the community they're hurting (2024)

AI Overviews; Windows Recall. These are some of the biggest AI features announced by Google and Microsoft this year, and both companies have high hopes for them. Well, SOMEONE has to, as the majority of the tech world despises these tools. They both spell bad news, but the companies making them aren’t taking our complaints to heart. Instead, Google and Microsoft are ignoring the outcry about their controversial AI tools.

First up, AI Overviews

Let’s catch you up: Back during Google I/O 2024, Google introduced the public to AI Overviews. This is the tool that provides AI-generated overviews of the things you search on Google. Rather than surfacing relevant web pages, the tool will just summarize what you’re searching for.

Why is it bad?

Well, this is a tool that can greatly diminish the traffic that many websites get, thus killing their ad revenue. Without enough ad revenue, many websites and associated companies will need to shut down. News websites rely on this ad revenue to survive, but Google just doesn’t care.

What makes things worse is the fact that Google has started showing ads on the AI Overviews. That’s a huge slap to the face of the companies that split ad revenue. Whenever people travel to a site and click on an ad, both the website and Google get a cut of the ad revenue. Now, Google will be able to forgo displaying those websites and keep the ad revenue for itself.

That’s not all, but this tool has been showing some very odd and potentially dangerous answers to queries. Famously, it advised someone to put glue on pizza to help the cheese stick. Sure, that’s not the most dangerous answer, but if it’s messing up on something as simple as that, it could definitely mess up on something that’s not so obviously dangerous.

A recent report states that the AI Overviews are showing up less frequently. That’s good, at least.

Next, Windows Recall

This next tool is from Microsoft’s camp. Windows Recall is an interesting tool that will basically have the system continuously take screenshots of everything you’re doing on your computer. It will then store that data locally. So, if you need to recall something that you were doing at a certain point, you can ask Copilot to search through those screenshots.

Say, if you saved a file in a folder a few days back, and you forgot where you put it, you can ask Copilot “Where did I put [File name]”. Ostensibly, it will be able to look through the screenshots, identify the file, and tell you.

Why is it bad?

Sure, this could be a useful tool to help you recall certain actions. However, it doesn’t sit well with the community for several reasons. Firstly, not many people are hip to the thought of EVERYTHING you do on your computer being watched and documented. We can always make the joke that “Microsoft will see all the p*rn websites you visit [dopey laughter]”. But, in all seriousness, you’re handling sensitive documents, inputting passwords, storing banking information, communicating with clients, etc. on your computer. All of this stuff could potentially be documented.

Along with the fact that it’s creepy, there’s another issue; another MAJOR issue. As discovered by cybersecurity editor Kevin Beaumont, the feature saves everything you do on your computer as a plain text SQLite database on your computer. Users can actually locate the file on their computer just by going to the AppData folder. So, while it’s stored locally, a five-year-old can access it.

Google and Microsoft are ignoring the outcry about their controversial AI tools

It really gets us how companies can develop and ship features that they know will not sit well with the community. The executives at Google know that AI Overviews could topple the news industry; our aforementioned five-year-old can get the logic behind that. Obviously, many news organizations, who are already salty about the march of AI, have a major issue with it. However, in interviews, Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said that people will use the overviews as a jumping-off point. What’s the use of a jumping-off point if you get everything you need in an instant?

Seriously, how many people will read the overviews and think to dig deeper? Sure, there are some people who will do this, but not enough to properly sustain the ad revenue of news websites.

In the case of Microsoft, who thought that, in the age of zero privacy, introducing a feature that literally records everything you do on your computer would be a hit? The company introduced a privacy and security nightmare that stores the data behind a 1-foot tall gate. These are industry professionals here; they’re all highly trained and very intelligent. However, they pull stunts like these. People are cracking into this feature and finding major security flaws that should not be there.

The outcry is unheard

The community is unhappy with having these blatantly destructive AI tools, and all the companies can do is defend them. Despite so much public backlash, Google continues to work on AI Overviews. Fixing the odd responses doesn’t fix the core issue; the issue is that people don’t want it because it can cost a ton of people their jobs. This is why guides on how to disable AI Overviews popped up A DAY after it was launched.

Microsoft clarified that Windows Recall is opt-in only. In all honesty, that’s a good thing (with that, it’s already a step ahead of AI Overviews). It will also require Windows Hello authentication. However, that’s not the core issue. The issue is that the feature is extremely intrusive and as secure as a paper mache lock.

The tech community is tired of being ignored by large tech companies that pull this crap. They launch AI tools that are major red flags and they ignore the backlash. They just issue statements saying that they will fix the issue and hope that the people forget. However, there are things that a scripted comment from a spokesperson can’t cover up.

The community is crying out for companies to stop shipping these features and only hear silence. We’re at a point where AI could cause some major damage, and these major tech brands need to realize that, if they keep going down this path, they’re going to reach a point where they do irreparable damage.

These tech firms care more about AI than the community they're hurting (2024)


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