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Employees of Microsoft listening to your Skype calls and questions to Cortana

59102 autosave v1 2 windows phone cortana 720x720The privacy concerns have always been present around the technology, but until now the big companies have managed to mitigate most of the fears of the consumers, about the possibility that their private lives could be exposed. However, that is changing, thanks to earlier revelations that surround Amazon, Google and Apple, and now Microsoft joins the trend.

If you thought your Skype calls and the questions they do to Cortana were entirely private, you’re wrong, especially if you’ve ever used the function of language translation.

A recent report published by Motherboard shows documents, audio and screen captures that indicate that contract employees of Microsoft are listening to some Skype calls in Addition, also listen to questions and voice commands that the users give to Cortana, the intelligent assistant of the company.

Essentially, the Microsoft employees receive samples of the audio recording of some Skype calls (usually those that are made through the translation function of the application), as well as audio recordings of the voice commands to Cortana. With the Skype calls, it is expected that the contractors to help transcribe what they hear, either by choosing the best translation generated by Skype, or by adding your own translation.

Although the report of Motherboard mentions that the screen shots show that “the audio is handled as confidential information of Microsoft”, the problem here is that contractors can still hear conversations explicit and voice commands on the personal affairs completely private, including conversations that might involve confidential information, or even phone sex. In addition, the voice commands of Cortana could contain addresses and complete data, or personal consultation potentially embarrassing.

In addition, it does not appear that Microsoft has been completely transparent about this practice of review of the audio recording. And although in the section of frequently Asked Questions about the privacy of the translator of Skype is mentioned the collection and analysis of calls, there seems to be no mention of the fact that human translators are part of the “translation services” offers you the function of translator Skype.

In fact, Skype emphasizes that the collection of these conversations has the objective of helping to improve the “technology” behind its translation service, but does not go into detail about the people who are daily behind that technology: “To provide a conversation translated, the content of your communication is passing through our services of voice recognition and / or translation before being returned in the selected language”, you can read on the website of the company. “The translation in Skype is a new technology that will improve the more you use. To help the technology to learn and to grow, we check the automatic translations and retroalimentamos the corrections in the system, in order to build more effective services”. As you can see, nowhere mentions the involvement of people.

What says Microsoft?

Microsoft issued a statement to the Motherboard with respect to the use of these audio recordings and why it collects these recordings, claiming that he was transparent about this practice and to “obtain the permission of customers before collecting and using their data a voice.”

The company also outlined the steps it has taken to ensure the privacy of its users in order to participate in this practice, including the de-identification of data, confidentiality agreements with the suppliers and their employees, and the requirement that they comply with the highest standards of privacy established. “We continue to revise the way in which we manage the voice data to make sure that the choices are as clear as possible to customers and provide strong protections of privacy,” says the statement. The report of Motherboard he also mentioned that Microsoft said that the contractors could only access the audio data through an online portal is safe.”

This situation is the fact that Apple, Google, Amazon, and other tech giants also confirmed that they employ human workers to listen to the recordings of the interactions of its users with their intelligent assistants.

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