Microsoft retains position on sharing Skype conversations with contractors

by | Aug 15, 2019

Microsoft insists voice recordings on Skype’s Translator feature and Cortana — Microsoft voice assistant — will continue to be shared with human contractors for the sake of transcription despite controversies bordering around users privacy.

Following a flaw leaked last week by Motherboard, Microsoft got trapped in the same web of sharing voice recordings with contractors as Amazon, Apple and Facebook. However, what can not be said to be common with these companies are their reactions. While Apple and Facebook suspended the practice, Amazon included the opt-in-opt-out options.

Reacting to this, Microsoft updated its privacy policy to specify that humans may sometimes review such content.

“This may include transcription of audio recordings by Microsoft employees and vendors, subject to procedures designed to prioritize users’ privacy, including taking steps to de-identify data, requiring non-disclosure agreements with vendors and their employees, and requiring that vendors meet the high privacy standards set out in European law and elsewhere,” Microsoft says in an update about voice data on its privacy dashboard.

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Before updating the privacy policy, Microsoft did state that it may share people’s data with Microsoft-controlled affiliates and subsidiaries, and with vendors working on their behalf when required by law or to respond to legal process, to protect customers, to protect lives, to maintain the security of products and to protect the rights and property of Microsoft and its customers.


Suggested Read: Data privacy is a myth: Facebook is the scapegoat


However, one seemingly disregarded concern on the part of Microsoft is transparency.

“Companies should be 100% transparent about the ways people’s conversations are recorded and how these recordings are being used,” Pat Walshe, an activist from Privacy Matters told Motherboard.

He opined that ideally, Microsoft could have either requested permission from the user or provided options on whether to opt-in or not.

A possible guess is that this move to retain human involvement, for the time being, is to train Skype’s AI to further understand human language before Microsoft Translator and Cortana become fully AI-powered.

Oluwanifemi Kolawole
Oluwanifemi Kolawole

Human enthusiast | Writer | Senior reporter | Podcaster.

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