Microsoft is trying out another feature for Copilot which could prove controversial, allowing for users to turn on personalization for the AI, tailoring its responses based on previous chats.

Windows Latest discovered the feature in Copilot – which, despite being officially renamed to that, is still referred to as Bing Chat in some menus – and has had a play with it.

When the option for personalization (in Settings) is turned on, the AI uses insights gleaned from your chat history to “make conversations unique to you” the feature blurb states. Elsewhere Microsoft mentions that it’s recent conversations which are referred back to, although how far back it goes isn’t made clear.

Windows Latest gives us an example scenario where you have chatted about learning French with Copilot, and then you start a new topic on learning software. Copilot might then suggest apps that help in your quest to learn to speak French.

This feature is only available to some Copilot users, and it seems Microsoft is still testing the concept. According to feedback online, some users have seen the functionality come and go from their Copilot AI.

Windows Latest highlights a further addition into the mix for Copilot, namely a ‘Search on Bing’ option that appears when you hover over a message in the chat. If your query isn’t satisfactorily dealt with by the AI, this allows you to easily fire up a web search as a follow-up.

Analysis: Double-edged sword?

Personalization could be regarded as a double-edged sword. On the one hand, additional context is going to be useful for making the AI come up with material more relevant to your needs. On the other hand, it brings up questions about how far back in the chat history Microsoft combs, and issues related to that data – is any kind of personal profile being built here beyond the limited nature presented (i.e. recent chats only)?

We’d assume not, but this is an idea that’s been floated on online forums (like Reddit) before now, and folks are always going to be paranoid around the privacy of these kinds of features. And that’s not surprising, really, given the amount of data hoovering and profiling big tech companies engage in on a broader level.

Notably, Microsoft has felt the wrath of EU regulations of late, interfering with the software giant’s plans for Copilot considerably, and meaning the AI hasn’t been deployed to European users yet, while legal wrinkles are ironed out. That involves not just work on Copilot, but other changes in Microsoft’s products elsewhere (some of them relatively radical like removing Bing’s hooks from the search box in the Windows 11 taskbar).

Speaking of Bing, the new integrated search option for Copilot is a useful extra, though we don’t expect any option to change the search engine being used will be forthcoming (of course). Bard has a similar built-in ‘Google It’ capability, it should be noted, which has been in that AI since its launch, so Microsoft is playing catch-up here.

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