Microsoft Contractors Are Listening In On Your Cortana Interactions And Skype Chats

Over the last few weeks, there has been an increasing amount of concern over what Apple, Amazon, and Google are doing with the voice commands and conversations that their respective digital assistants hear and record. All of those companies have employees or contractors who listen to the transcripts of commands issued to the digital assistants to see if they answered correctly and to improve the service. It's easy to forget that Microsoft operates in this digital assistant space as well, and a new report claims that its workers are eavesdropping on Skype chats and Cortana interactions.

microsoft skype

Word of Microsoft's policy comes from a Microsoft contractor who was able to provide Motherboard recordings that the workers listen to that were from 5-10 seconds in length but can be longer. The recordings were allegedly of people using Skype's translation feature. The contractor says that they listen to the conversation to see what the user said and select from a list of possible translations or provide their own translation.

When Microsoft was asked about its policy, it told Motherboard that it makes the recordings available via a secure online portal to contractors and that it takes steps to remove any associated information that could be used to identify a user after the fact. Microsoft also notes that it gets the users' permission before sharing the data with vendors and notes that its practices meet European law.

Those wanting to opt-out are out of luck with no method of opting out noted on Skype reports Lifehacker. Cortana users can opt-out of having their content reviewed by a contractor. That can be done with these steps:

  1. Pull up the Settings app in Windows 10
  2. Click on Privacy
  3. Click on Speech on the left-hand sidebar
  4. Disable the “Online speech recognition” feature

Amazon allows users to opt-out of having their data reviewed by humans, and Apple has suspended its human review program for now.