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Microsoft To Continue Doing Manual Review Of Voice Data

microsoft aug15 lt

Microsoft Corp. has updated its privacy policy indicating that human employees or contractors may listen to audio recordings of people using its Skype calling service and Cortana virtual assistant.

"Our processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) methods of processing. Our automated methods often are related to and supported by our manual methods," Microsoft's new privacy policy says.

According to the company, it uses the personal data collected to improve its products as well as to personalize these products and make recommendations.

Microsoft's Skype Translator Privacy FAQ page carries a statement that in order to help its translation and speech recognition technology to learn and grow, sentences as well as automatic transcripts are analyzed and corrections entered into the system to build more performant services.

"This may include transcription of audio recordings by Microsoft employees and vendors, subject to procedures designed to protect users' privacy, including taking steps to de-identify data...," the page shows.

However, Microsoft provides tools that allow users to delete their audio recordings. According to the company, Skype records voice conversations only when the user selects translation features. Users can turn off the translation features if they do not require it.

Major technology companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Apple have come under criticism for using human transcribers to listen to audio chats of people using their services, including personal and sensitive conversations.

Apple, Google and Facebook have all said they would suspend the use of human transcribers for their products. .

On Wednesday, Facebook admitted to have paid contractors to listen to and transcribe audio chats of its users, but added that it has paused the process.

Facebook was the fourth major company after Amazon, Apple and Google to have been caught listening to audio recordings of users, which should have been only heard by artificial intelligence or AI.

The company said employees only transcribed audio of users who chose the option in Facebook's Messenger app. The contractors were checking whether Facebook's AI accurately understood the messages.

E-commerce giant Amazon was recently accused of violating child privacy laws after Alexa allegedly recorded voices of millions of children without their or their parents' consent.

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