Microsoft Contractors Found Listening to Some Audio Calls When Skype Translator Feature is Active

Microsoft contractors are listening to conversations between users on Skype who use its translation feature, according to Motherboard. This is done only if users are performing a translation function in Skype and not during any other typical Skype voice or video call.

skype group call max 50
The information gathered includes Skype audio regarding intimate conversations between couples and more. The data also suggests that Microsoft contractors listen to voice commands spoken to Cortana, the company's smart voice assistant. The information seen by Microsoft contractors is anonymized and doesn't contain any user identifiable information.

These contractors (who mostly work from home) do manual translations of Skype audio conversations, sent by Microsoft along with a series of approximate translations generated by Skype's AI program. The contractor has to select the most accurate translation or provide their own, and they send the information back to Microsoft.

Microsoft warns users that it analyzes audio of translated calls in Skype to improve its services, but it does not mention that some of the analysis will be done by humans. The translation feature lets users perform real-time audio translations during phone and video calls, powered by artificial intelligence.

"The fact that I can even share some of this with you shows how lax things are in terms of protecting user data," a Microsoft contractor who provided the cache of files to Motherboard, said.

The contractor said, "I generally feel like that while we do not have access to user identifiable information, that if Microsoft users were aware that random people sitting at home in their pajamas who could be joking online with friends about the stuff they just heard that they wouldn't like that."

According to Microsoft, the company's terminology on its Skype translator feature and on Cortana are clear and straightforward in how it uses voice data to improve each service. "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," the company said.

Microsoft also said that the audio data sent to contractors is through a secure online portal, and that it ensures any identifying information (like the user's name or device identification numbers) are removed. Despite all of this, Microsoft's terminology still doesn't mention that human workers might listen to your Skype translation conversations, or Cortana commands.

The Skype story from Motherboard emerges today following previous articles centered on human workers listening to Siri recordings at Apple and Google Assistant recordings at Google. Following these reports, Apple suspended its own program wherein contractors listened to anonymized ‌Siri‌ recordings for quality control purposes.

Tag: Skype

Top Rated Comments

keysofanxiety Avatar
39 months ago
Great, an illegal wiretap. What if they hear about a plot to injury and/or kill others? Do they ignore or tell someone about it.
You’re right. I frequently discuss my evil killer plans over Skype audio with somebody who speaks in a different language that I can’t understand. This news has made me rethink my otherwise inconspicuous behaviour.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Nugget Avatar
39 months ago
This is done only if users are performing a translation function in Skype and not during any other typical Skype voice or video call . . . The information gathered includes Skype audio regarding intimate conversations between couples and more.
Intimate conversations between couples who don't speak the same language and rely on Skype translation services to communicate? Color me skeptical. The reporting on this seems a bit overblown and drama-seeking to me.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
benshive Avatar
39 months ago
I'm always surprised that people are surprised by this. If recorded audio is being processed and used to improve a service like a translator, personal assistant, etc. of course there's a group of employees that can hear it.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nexesnex Avatar
39 months ago
My first reaction "People still use Skype?":eek:

:):)
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HardRain Avatar
39 months ago
Privacy is an illusion, everything is public now.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
I7guy Avatar
39 months ago
Lately “transparency” is a moving definition. AI needs help from humans to get better...no surprise.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Pro Purple Rear Flat MacRumors Exclusive

iPhone 14 Pro Predicted to Start With Increased 256GB Storage Alongside Rumored Price Increase

Wednesday August 10, 2022 11:14 am PDT by
Earlier today, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed iPhone 14 Pro models will be more expensive than iPhone 13 Pro models. Kuo did not reveal exact pricing, but he said that the average selling price of all four iPhone 14 models will increase by about 15% overall. While higher prices would be disappointing for customers, it is possible the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max will offer increased...
iPhone 14 Pro Lineup Feature Silver

Kuo: Apple to Increase Prices of iPhone 14 Pro Models

Wednesday August 10, 2022 8:22 am PDT by
Apple plans to increase the prices of iPhone 14 Pro models compared to iPhone 13 Pro models, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo did not reveal exact pricing for the iPhone 14 Pro models. However, in a tweet today, he estimated that the average selling price of the iPhone 14 lineup as a whole will increase by about 15% compared to the iPhone 13 lineup. In the United States, the iPhone...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Front and Back MacRumors Exclusive feature

iPhone 14 Is Just a Few Weeks Away: Three Tips to Prepare for the New iPhone

Wednesday August 10, 2022 4:08 am PDT by
The launch of the new iPhone 14 is just a few weeks away, meaning millions of iPhone customers will soon upgrade their existing iPhone or perhaps get an iPhone for the first time. Exclusive MacRumors iPhone 14 Pro renders by graphic designer Ian Zelbo Whether upgrading from an older model or this is your first iPhone, we've rounded up a few tips to help you prepare for the next flagship...
battery percentage ios 16

Here's Why the iPhone Battery Status Icon in iOS 16 Is So Controversial

Wednesday August 10, 2022 4:34 am PDT by
In the latest iOS 16 beta, Apple has updated the status bar battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the exact percentage remaining rather than just a visual representation of battery level, and while the change has been largely welcomed, some users are unhappy with the way it has been implemented. In iOS 15 and earlier, battery percent has not been present on iPhones that have...
Apple Watch Body Temperature Finished

'High-Accuracy' Apple Watch Temperature Sensor Revealed by Patent Filing Just Weeks Before Series 8 Unveiling

Wednesday August 10, 2022 5:39 am PDT by
Apple has been granted a patent for a temperature sensor suitable for the Apple Watch, just weeks before the company is expected to unveil the Apple Watch Series 8 with body temperature sensing capabilities. The newly granted patent, spotted by MyHealthyApple, was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and is titled "Temperature gradient sensing in electronic devices."...