Microsoft purportedly hires contractors and pays them up to $14 per hour to transcribe 200 audio clips.

A report that surfaced the internet revealed that Microsoft is making their contractors transcribe as much as 200 audio clips an hour and pay them $14 for that whole hour of service. The transcription task is for the purpose of training the Cortana virtual assistant.

What Microsoft has been declaring as tasks done solely by artificial intelligence, turned out to be possible due to the number of virtual assistants and human force operating behind the scene. The output produced by the AIs are due to Cortana’s automated representation of human speech as results of the repetitive efforts from people.

What Contractors Actually Do

Microsoft contractors’ work begins by listening to Skype calls and conversations. They will then transcribe all the gathered resources. After the transcription, contractors will then classify their transcribed data based on specific domains.

The specific domains where the transcribed data are segregated include “Alarm” for time-related messages, “Capture” for things that involve cameras, “Calendar” for appointment-related concerns. To be specific, there are more than 20 domains that contractors must choose from in classifying each audio transcription.

Microsoft requires that all the listening task, transcribing task as well as classifying tasks to be done 200 times in an hour. In average, to satisfy Microsoft’s requirement, each contractor must complete three tasks per minute and gets paid at $12 to up to $14 while some receive a dollar bonus increasing their earning to $15. A report released last week describes the contractors’ work for Microsoft as laborious and poorly paid.

What Microsoft has to say

Microsoft sent an email statement saying that the company is always looking forward to improving transparency and help their customers make the right choices. The software giant representative further admitted that they engage in seeking third party assistance and assured that they will continue to protect their users’ privacy.

Microsoft further clarified that they have clear disclosures in using content from Cortana and Skype Translator. The software giant, however, did not comment nor release a statement about the allegations of making their contractors work much and paying them little.