Microsoft says humans could be listening to Skype calls

Microsoft says humans are listening to snippets of some Skype calls.

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Microsoft has flagged that humans could be listening to “short snippets” of voice conversations on its audio services like Skype and virtual assistant Cortana, Motherboard reported Wednesday. The disclosure reportedly came via an update of its privacy statement.

It comes a week after Motherboard reported that Microsoft contractors listen to recordings of some Skype conversations and interactions with Cortana — which follows AppleGoogle and Amazon recently suspending human review of user audio recordings, with Facebook last week following suit.

“Our processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) methods,” the privacy policy says. “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.”

Microsoft’s privacy statement says human review is used to help build, train and improve accuracy of its artificial intelligence systems.

Vice added Wednesday afternoon that Microsoft’s human review contractors are paid between $12 and $14 an hour for the job, and transcribe up to 200 audio clips every hour. This could include hearing “personal and sensitive information” via Cortana recordings, Vice reported.

Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

First published at 12:41 p.m. PT on Aug. 14.
Updated at 12:50 p.m.: adds further report on contractors’ pay and workload.

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