For most, Microsoft’s Cortana voice assistant is a forgotten service. It is another example of Microsoft starting on an exciting path only to ditch a product. However, Cortana still runs on Windows 10 and some users still speak to her. Microsoft says it is now giving all users the ability to choose how the company handles their conversations.
Specifically, users can decide if Microsoft can access audio recordings. It’s worth noting this is for all voice-enabled Microsoft services, not just Cortana. Microsoft uses recordings made by its apps to improve its speech recognition algorithms.
In terms of Cortana, this would mean only interactions that the user makes. In other words, Cortana listening behind the scenes on Windows 10 would not be used.
Previously, users had little control over what information Microsoft could access. Now, the company says it does not review voice recordings by default. Users now need to manually opt in to give the company permission.
Once permission is given, Microsoft can store and access the audio recordings. It is also worth noting the company can also pass those recordings on to contractors. However, Microsoft points out it does not share personal information:
“Microsoft removes certain personal information from voice clips as they are processed in the cloud, including Microsoft account identifiers and strings of letters or numbers that could be telephone numbers, Social Security numbers and email addresses.”
Those who don’t want Microsoft accessing the recordings will still have access to all the company’s voice-enabled services. For these customers, Microsoft will not store recordings but will be able to access information such as transcripts from speech recognition AI.
“Their transcription is what we consider our ground truth of what was actually spoken inside that audio clip. We use that as a basis for comparison to identify where our AI needs improvement,” said Neeta Saran, a senior attorney at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington.
Tip of the day:
Did you know that as a Windows 10 admin you can restrict user accounts by disabling settings or the control panel? Our tutorial shows how to disable and enable them via Group Policy and the registry.