Microsoft contractors working on Skype translation service are listening in on some conversations, new report shows

skype translator

Following the news about Apple and Google using human transcriptionists to analyze the conversations that are made with Siri and the Google Assistant, it seems that humans are also listening to calls made on Microsoft's Skype service. A new report published on the Vice motherboard website today reveals that Microsoft contractors are listening to Skype conversations in which the Skype Translator service is used.

In a frequently asked question about the privacy of the Skype translator, the company explains that “To help translation and voice recognition technology learn and grow, automatic sentences and transcriptions are analyzed and corrections are entered into our system , to build more effective services. ” The fact that this work is done in part by humans is never explicitly mentioned, and Motherboard also reports that these Microsoft contractors also have access to some voice commands issued for Microsoft's digital assistant Cortana.

The Skype audio obtained by Motherboard includes conversations of people who talk intimately with their loved ones; Some talk about personal issues such as weight loss and others apparently discuss relationship problems. Other files obtained by Motherboard show that Microsoft contractors are also listening to voice commands that users talk to Cortana, the company's voice assistant.

A Microsoft contractor also told Motherboard that some of the Cortana voice commands they heard included personal addresses, as well as inquiries about adult content. "Some things I've heard could be clearly described as telephone sex. I've heard people enter full addresses in Cortana's commands, or ask Cortana to provide search results in pornography queries. While I don't know exactly what could be done with This information seems strange to me that it is not being handled in a more controlled environment, "the contractor told Motherboard.

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Microsoft & # 39; s Skype Translator frequently asked questions mention that "the conversations used to improve the product are indexed with alphanumeric identifiers that do not identify the participants in the conversation", but the Company should be more transparent about how it analyzes voice data. In a statement sent by email to Motherboard, a Microsoft spokesman acknowledged that external providers and their employees have access to voice data, adding that all contractors are under strict confidentiality agreements.

"Microsoft collects voice data to provide and improve voice-enabled services such as search, voice commands, dictation or translation services. We strive to be transparent about our collection and use of voice data to ensure that customers can make informed decisions about when and how their voice data is used. Microsoft obtains permission from customers before collecting and using their voice data. "

"We also implement several procedures designed to prioritize the privacy of users before sharing this data with our suppliers, including the identification of data, which require confidentiality agreements with suppliers and their employees, and requiring that suppliers comply with the high privacy standards set in European law. We continue to review the way we handle voice data to ensure that the options are as clear as possible for customers and provide strong privacy protections, "the statement added.

Even if contractors have to sign NDA before accessing the audio captured by Skype Translator and Cortana, Motherboard, reports that many of these employees are working from home, accessing all audio data through an online portal safe. "The fact that I can even share some of this with you shows how lax things are in terms of user data protection," said a Microsoft contractor who provided audio files to Motherboard.

Are you worried that humans will hear Skype calls and Cortana Voice Commands, and do you think Microsoft should follow Google and Apple who recently announced that they would stop using human transcriptionists? Turn off in the comments below.

Additional readings: Cortana, Microsoft, privacy, Skype, Skype Translator

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