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Humans will continue listening to some Cortana and Skype recordings

Last week, word surfaced that Microsoft, as with Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook before it, was using human contractors to listen to some Skype and Cortana audio clips. Though other big tech companies have paused these practices in light of consumer concerns, Microsoft has taken a different route, updating its privacy policy to explicitly state that people are listening.

News about the matter first surfaced at Motherboard, which recently noticed that Microsoft updated its privacy policy to state that human contractors and employees may listen to user recordings captured by Skype Translator and Cortana.

The disclosure is made on both the Skype Translator FAQ page and Microsoft’s newly updated privacy policy in the ‘How we use personal data’ section:

Our processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) methods of processing … To 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. 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 decision to update the privacy policy to include details about this practice addresses criticisms aimed at Microsoft for the previous lack of clear disclosure. Users who aren’t comfortable with Microsoft’s contractors and employees potentially listening to their recordings can manage their privacy using Microsoft’s website here.

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