Microsoft contractors listen to some Skype calls and Cortana commands

Microsoft contractors listen to some Skype calls and Cortana commands

The unauthorized recordings included confidential medical information, drug deals and sexual encounters, according to a person described in the story as a company whistle-blower, but who wasn't identified. While Microsoft says all information is accessed through a secure portal, contractors who leaked the information say regulations are clearly too lax. Contractors are also said to be reviewing voice commands from Cortana users, which can contain personal information, including home addresses and other sensitive details.

Apart from this, Motherboard also claims that it has evidence that human contractors could hear voice commands that were directed to Cortana, which is Microsoft's official virtual voice-activated assistant.

It has been revealed that certain Microsoft workers are able to occasionally listen to real Skype conversations that have been processed by translation software. The piece, penned by cybersecurity reporter Joseph Cox, cites a trove of internal documentation, screenshots, and audio recordings obtained by the publication.

Then again, most Skype calls consist of both parties asking if the other can hear them properly, followed by some peering directly into the camera from close quarters. "Companies should be 100% transparent about the ways people's conversations are recorded and how these recordings are being used", said in an online chat Frederike Kaltheuner, from the activist group Privacy International. However, it doesn't note that human workers will be doing some of this analysis by listening in on calls.


They explained that this voice data is used "to provide and improve voice-enabled services like search, voice commands, dictation or translation services".

Apple and Google last week halted reviews of recordings.

Besides, a heightening popularity of Amazon's Alexa, Apple Inc.'s Siri and Google's voice assistant had raised alarms among policymakers alongside privacy enforcers, since recordings of user interaction to their voice assistant such as responses to a news feed, could bear sheer significance during the times of haggling over political popularity. "We continue to review the way we handle voice data to ensure we make options as clear as possible to customers and provide strong privacy protections", the statement added.

"We additionally put in place a number of procedures created to prioritise customers' privateness earlier than sharing this information with our distributors, together with de-identifying information, requiring non-disclosure agreements with distributors and their workers, and requiring that distributors meet the excessive privateness requirements set out in European regulation". The Skype Translator FAQ page states: "Skype collects and uses your conversation to help improve Microsoft products and services".

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