A whistleblower revealed that contractors from Microsoft manually review snippets of conversations recorded through Skype’s translator. Recordings gathered from the Cortana voice assistant are also being reviewed.
As reported by Vice, an anonymous Microsoft contractor leaked the information. According to the report, there are “internal documents, screenshots, and audio recordings” that reveal how contractors sometimes eavesdrop into intimate Skype conversations. This is to improve the translation service feature. Vice describes some of the audio they reviewed as “conversations from people talking intimately to loved ones, some chatting about personal issues such as their weight loss, and others seemingly discussing relationship problems.”
The news outlet says that snippets of recordings gathered were between 5 to 10 seconds long or longer. The anonymous whistleblower tells Vice, “Some stuff I’ve heard could clearly be described as phone sex.”
Microsoft informs users that voice data is reviewed to improve services, however, the tech company doesn’t explicitly say that humans will listen to the gathered recordings. The tech company released a statement saying it “gets customers’ permission before collecting and using their voice data” and that its FAQ section makes it clear to users that their voice data will be listened to.
But it’s not just your translated Skype calls that are exposed to the contractors, the commands you recorded through Cortana are also out there according to the report. Previously published reports have suggested that the human workers are also listening in on recordings from Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri. Sensitive information such as addresses is heard from Cortana’s common audio according to the whistleblower.
Christian is a morning reporter and technology columnist for Best in Australia. Christian has worked in the media since 2000, in a range of locations. He joined Best in Australia in 2018, and began working in Melbourne in 2019.