Microsoft has updated its privacy policy to admit that indeed, humans are listening to voice recordings via Skype's Translator service, as well as user conversations with Cortana.

This comes less than a week after Motherboard reported how contractors working for Microsoft are able to listen in on the aforementioned. The updated privacy policy now explicitly says that “humans” are listening to user conversations to improve performance.

“Our processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) methods of processing,” Microsoft’s updated privacy policy reads.

The tech giant explained that it must “manually review” some of the data it collects from different “contexts” (i.e. Skype Translator and Cortana) in order to improve its “automated methods” of processing data.

“For example, we manually review short snippets of a small sampling of voice data we have taken steps to de-identify to improve our speech services, such as recognition and translation,” the policy reads.

Microsoft also updated the Skype Translator FAQ to admit that its employees and contractors might listen to select recordings.

“When you use Skype’s translation features, Skype collects and uses your conversation to help improve Microsoft products and services... This may include transcription of audio recordings by Microsoft employees and vendors,” the updated FAQ said.

Is this a threat to user privacy?

Now that Microsoft has dmitted that its employees and contractors are listening to some users’ conversations, is it safe to say that Microsoft’s services pose a threat to privacy? Here are some points to consider:

First, Microsoft explained last week that it doesn’t collect any user’s data without getting their consent beforehand. Simply put, those who fear that the tech giant’s employees are eavesdropping on them do not need to feel that way unless they allow their information to be collected.

Second, Microsoft said it takes necessary steps to “de-identify” recordings before sending them to vendors. This means that those who might be given access to certain voice recordings won’t be able to identify the person behind the voice.

Sadly, according to the contractor who exposed the issue to Motherboard, the recordings sometimes contain very sensitive conversations that might contain addresses pointing to certain users’ homes, health issues, and/or relationship problems.

Lastly, Microsoft admits that those who use Skype’s Translator services are sure to have their conversations recorded. This alone implies that someone could listen to every single conversation using the feature.

cortana hed
Cortana Company