Microsoft will continue to use humans to transcribe Cortana and Skype audio

The tech giants have recently been accused of passing some of your audio recordings from voice digital assistants to human third parties for analysis, in an effort to improve their services. Most have put these programs on hold – but some are still actively listening.

Like most major tech companies that offer voice assistant or voice chat services, Microsoft has been pinned down to have certain Skype and Cortana records scanned by human employees. Apple, Google and Facebook have all decided to temporarily stop these programs of analysis and Amazon allows users to exclude themselves from the program so that their conversations with Alexa are not listened to by strangers. Microsoft, for its part, decided to continue without changing anything, despite the risks regarding the privacy of its users.

Microsoft will continue to analyze audio recordings by humans

The Redmond giant has preferred to update its terms of use to explicitly state that human employees can listen to voice conversations and commands: “We realized, following the recent queries, that we could do even better by specifying that humans sometimes have access to this content,” said a spokesman for Microsoft to Motherboard, who discovered the textual changes in question. “Our treatment of personal data for this purpose includes automated and manual (human) methods,” they said.

On several pages, the company explains using voice data and recordings to improve voice recognition, translation, understanding of intent and more in Microsoft products and services: “This can include the transcription of audio recordings by Microsoft employees and vendors, subject to procedures put in place to respect the privacy of users. This includes the anonymisation of data, the signing of non-disclosure agreements with our sellers and their employees and the need for them to respect many confidentiality rules, in accordance with European laws in particular.” Although Microsoft allows deleting audio recordings, the giant could have been more transparent from the beginning.

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