Employees who work for a Microsoft subcontractor listen to Skype conversations for his voice assistant Cortana and for the Skype Translation translation service, Motherboard writes on the basis of internal documents, screenshots and audio recordings from an anonymous whistleblower.
In the recordings that Motherboard listened to, personal conversations from Skype users can be heard. These were short fragments of between five and ten seconds, although the whistleblower said that they had also listened to longer fragments.
The employees of Microsoft subcontractor are told an audio fragment that is provided with a translation suggestion. They must then check the translation and correct it if necessary.
The information is not directly linked to a Skype or Cortana user, but the audio fragments can still contain sensitive information. The whistleblower describes at Motherboard having heard addresses or searches for porn.
In a statement to Motherboard , Microsoft writes that the data is collected to "offer and improve" its services. The company also writes that users give their consent before their voice recordings are collected and used.
It is unclear which part of the Skype and Cortana audio recordings ends up with people.
Microsoft not transparent about deployment of people
Microsoft has never made it clear to users that people can eventually hear the Skype and Cortana recordings. The company only says that voting data is used to improve the service, without mentioning that people are involved.
Earlier, Amazon, Google and Apple were already under fire because they failed to report the same practices for analysis of the recordings of their voice assistants. Listening to recordings of the Google Assistant and Siri also took place in Dutch, revealed respectively VRT NWS and NU.nl.
Skype Translate with audio does not work in Dutch. The languages that are supported include English, French, German, Spanish, Arabic and Hindi. The voice assistant Cortana is not available in Dutch.