Rewind AI Records Everything on Your Mac. Privacy Nightmare or Amazing Memory Tool?

It remembers everything

  • Rewind AI records everything you do on your Mac, and makes it searchable. 
  • All data stays on your computer. 
  • The company has already removed one privacy-related feature.
Rewind AI working on a Mac


A new app records "anything you've seen, said, or heard" on your Mac and makes it searchable.

Rewind AI solves a huge problem with modern computers: Where was that thing you just saw? Was the link sent via Slack, iMessage, or email? Did you view it in Safari or Chrome? You're sure somebody mentioned something in some meeting, but did they say it out loud, or was it a chat message? The goal of Rewind is to make everything you do on your computer searchable, but there's a pretty big privacy and security concern: It records and stores everything you do. 

"There's definitely a risk if you happen to end up in legal trouble and the authorities can access your computer, though. Court orders to unlock devices and enter passwords are sometimes issued." Ben Michael, attorney at Michael and Associates, told Lifewire via email.


The concept is simple and uses modern technology to make something once impossible now possible. The app just constantly records your screen and your computer’s audio. That part has been possible for a long time, but the gimmick here is it then uses various machine-learning tricks to extract the text of this screen-captured video, and to transcribe any audio, thereby making it all searchable. Currently, the app only processes screenshots and captured text from OCR (optical character recognition).

Then, it compresses what should be drive-filling gigabytes of data into mere megabytes so that you can keep a history of your activity and view it at any time. The tech is truly impressive, and because it just records the screen and your audio, your apps don’t need to add any code or give permission. It just works.

It’s a tempting feature because it’s so incredibly useful; you should never lose anything again. But Rewind’s strength is also its weakness: It remembers everything and makes it searchable. This includes your banking site, video meetings with people who don’t necessarily want to be recorded, your password manager app, etc. 

The app stores everything on your Mac, locally, but not in the cloud. You can also delete the parts you don’t want, exclude apps entirely, and opt not to record private browsing. If you read through the company website, especially the FAQ section on privacy, you’ll see that the only data that leaves your computer is usage data and crash reports. Although these are enabled by default, you can disable them, too. 


There are still two areas of concern. One is that you have to trust the app and the company behind it. Trust comes with experience, and right now, we have no experience with the company. And there has already been a privacy "rewind" since the app launched last week.

"When we launched two days ago, we shared that we use a cloud transcription service. That didn't go over so well with some folks (thanks @smagdali)," Rewind founder Dan Siroker said on Twitter. "Today, we decided we would entirely ditch cloud transcription and ONLY do transcription locally on your Mac."

For a product that is bound to attract a lot of privacy-based scrutiny, using a cloud service for transcription seems to be an odd decision. And Rewind is VC funded, which could lead to outside pressure in the future, especially since the app is gathering such a goldmine of data.

Rewind AI prompt to search for what you've seen, said, or heard recently


The other concern is more practical. Anyone with access to your Mac can see everything you’ve done. This could be a coworker who checks your unlocked laptop while you grab a coffee or a boss at a company that uses employee-monitoring snoopware. 

But this isn’t really about Rewind, specifically. The problem would be the same for any app or service that can record the entirety of your computer usage, and to its credit, Rewind seems to be responding fast to criticisms. 

Possibly the only way to create a life-logging service like this is at the platform level. If Apple built a Rewind-like app into the Mac, you might be more likely to trust it. After all, you already trust the operating system with all your passwords, meetings, and after-lunch video-watching habits. But given the privacy concerns, it seems unlikely that Apple would go anywhere near such an idea. 

This is a shame because Rewind looks well-designed and incredibly useful. The good thing is it’s available now (invite-only currently), so you can decide for yourself whether the tradeoffs are worth it.

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