Microsoft's contractors listen to sensitive Skype, Cortana recordings: Details here
After Apple, Google, and Amazon, Microsoft has joined the list of companies sharing sensitive user data with third parties. A scary report has revealed that the Redmond giant has been sending Skype and Cortana recordings to human contractors for review. The practice has raised major alarms among people using the two Microsoft products, but the company says there's nothing to worry about. Here's why.
Microsoft contractor released sensitive recordings
In a recent interview with Motherboard, a contractor hired by Microsoft detailed the practice of manual recording review. The person claimed that the company has been giving them recordings from Skype's automatic language translation feature as well as Cortana conversations for review and analysis. More worryingly, they even added that the company hasn't been taking proper steps to ensure the security of this data.
Recordings shared with Motherboard as proof
To make the point of poor security, the contractor shared certain recordings given to them as part of the review process. In those audio clips, Skype users could be heard giving away sensitive details like their full address. Notably, some recordings had even captured sexual encounters between two parties, people discussing relationship issues as well as searches for pornography and weight loss.
Here's what the contractor said about the recordings
"The fact that I can even share some of this with you shows how lax things are in terms of protecting user data," the contractor said while emphasizing on the poor security of user voice recordings.
Why these contractors listen to these recordings
According to Microsoft, these sensitive recordings are reviewed manually by human contractors in a bid to improve Skype's translation and Cortana's dictation and query handling abilities. The contractors have to listen to and rate the recordings and provide accurate responses/translations, depending on the specific case at hand. Similar practices are even undertaken by Apple, Google, and Amazon, according to reports.
Recordings cannot be tied with users identities
While it scary enough to know that someone may be listening to what you just spoke on Skype, the contractor did note that the recordings are completely anonymized before being sent. That said, the person emphasized that many Microsoft customers would still not like the fact that "random people sitting at home in their pajamas" were listening to and joking about their private conversations.
Microsoft defended its position on the matter
When contacted, Microsoft said its collects and uses voice recording only when users opt-in for the same. "We strive to be transparent about our collection and use of voice data to ensure customers can make informed choices about when and how their voice data is used," a company spokesperson said, adding that they take "customers' permission before collecting and using their voice data.