Microsoft is getting increasing criticism for allowing third-party contractors to listen to Skype Translator and Cortana queries. As well as the abuse of privacy, the company is also underpaying those contractors. It has now emerged Microsoft also allows contractors to listen to user audio through its Xbox One hardware.
Motherboard has expanded its investigation into the situation and found Microsoft also allow contractors to listen to voice commands on the console. Several third-party contractors have confirmed they are told to listen to Xbox One users.
For the most part, user recordings are monitored from commands given to the Kinect camera that shipped with the original Xbox One.
As Microsoft has already confirmed it allows contractors listen to Cortana, it is not surprising it extends to other services too. However, this is an interestingly development because the Xbox One is more likely to be used by children.
Like with Cortana and Skype Translator, Microsoft says allowing humans to listen to users improved voice technology:
“We’ve long been clear that we collect voice data to improve voice-enabled services. And that this data is sometimes reviewed by vendors.”
It’s true Microsoft has always said it acquires voice data to improve service. Although, it’s not true that the company has “long been clear” on the specifics. Indeed, only last week did Microsoft change its privacy terms to confirm it uses human to listen to users.
It seems obvious now that any Microsoft service where voice recognition and commands are used, Microsoft is using human contractors to listen in. After receiving widespread criticism, Microsoft responded. However, the company simply updated its privacy details to confirm it allows humans to listen to Cortana and Skype audio.
In other words, Microsoft admits its practice but refused to stop allowing it.