Microsoft Edge has an image enhancement feature that improves the color, lighting, contrast, and sharpness of photos you view on the web. It's a handy feature, but generally isn't that exciting. But some recent reports and threads on the web would have you believe Edge's image enhancement is much more newsworthy than it deserves to be.
PCMag recently published a piece titled "'Enhance Image' Function in Edge Browser Sends Image URLs to Microsoft." To PCMag's credit, the article does quote Microsoft's support document that clarifies the feature does not send user identifiers to Microsoft. But the headline leaves out some key information. A thread on the subject on Hacker News is much more negative.
So, what exactly is going on? Is Microsoft Edge sending all of the images you look at to a server at Microsoft? Well, yes and no. When the feature is enabled, Edge does send images to Microsoft servers to perform the enhancement, but none of your data is sent with the photo.
Microsoft explains this in a support document (emphasis added):
"To provide a better browsing experience, Microsoft Edge offers Image Enhancement by improving color, lighting, contrast, and sharpness of images. When Image Enhancement is turned on, Microsoft Edge encrypts and transmits images to Microsoft servers to perform image enhancement. No user identifiers are included in the requests to the servers. The images are cached for 30 days to improve performance."
So, Microsoft is sending images seen on Edge to the company's servers, but the images are encrypted and don't get paired with any identifiers to specific users. To me, that doesn't seem to warrant the fear mongering seen around the web.
That being said, Microsoft should note the fact that it doesn't send user identifiers directly in Edge's settings rather than making people search for a support document to see how the feature works.
If you are uncomfortable with the setting or just prefer to not use it, you can disable it through settings. Search for "Enhance images in Microsoft Edge" and then toggle the option off.
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Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org.