Microsoft Updates Privacy Policy to Confirm Humans are Listening to Cortana Conversations

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Other tech companies, such as Facebook have made a decision to stop transcribing user conversations.

While Microsoft stated in its previous policies that it may analyse audio recordings to improve translations, it did not make clear that humans may be listening in too, which the company has now amended. Apple says it's working on a feature to let Siri users opt out of the human review, and says it has suspended the program in the meantime.

While Google, Facebook, and Apple both announced earlier this month they will temporarily suspend the practice for some recordings, Microsoft has simply updated its privacy policies to disclose and specify that human workers may be listening in to recordings.

Microsoft has admitted that third-party contractors listen to your voice conversations on Skype and virtual assistant Cortana. "We manually review short snippets of a small sampling of voice data".

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But Microsoft seems keen to keep using to continue subjecting its contractors to the likely inane sputterings of some of its customers, as the company has clarified in its updated privacy policies for Cortana and other voice-activated services that the human review process will only be used for assessing and improving the performance of its AI tech and nothing else.

It goes on to add that the automated methods are "related to and supported by manual methods" in order to better "build, train, and improve the accuracy of our automated methods of processing (including AI), we manually review some of the predictions and inferences produced by the automated methods against the underlying data from which the predictions and inferences were made". Of the companies who have been exposed for these practices, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have all agreed to temporarily pause transcription until a wider conversation about privacy can be had.

As with other technology companies caught up in this story, the issue lies with Microsoft initially not stating that humans sometimes listen to voice recordings.

In a bid to protect user privacy, Microsoft says it takes "steps to de-identify data, requiring non-disclosure agreements with vendors and their employees, and requiring that vendors meet the high privacy standards set out in European law and elsewhere". The idea is that some of these conversations are "reviewed" to check the quality of translations.