Microsoft updates privacy policy to clearly state that humans listen to Skype and Cortana audio


Microsoft has changed several sections of its privacy policies to acknowledge that humans listen to audio recorded by its Cortana AI assistant and the Skype Translate services.

The move appears to be spurred by Motherboard's interview with a Microsoft contractor, who described listening Skype calls to review the quality of the app's AI-enabled live translations.

The company's Privacy Statement, the new text states:

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. For example, our automated methods include artificial intelligence (AI), which we think of as a set of technologies that enable computers to perceive, learn, reason, and assist in decision-making to solve problems in ways that are similar to what people do. To build, train, and improve the accuracy of our automated methods of processing (including AI), we manually review some of the predictions and inferences produced by the automated methods against the underlying data from which the predictions and inferences were made. For example, we manually review short snippets of a small sampling of voice data we have taken steps to de-identify to improve our speech services, such as recognition and translation.

The text under Cortana and Privacy was updated August 12, and states:

When you use your voice to say something to Cortana or invoke skills, Microsoft uses your voice data to improve Cortana’s understanding of how you speak, as well as to improve other Microsoft products and services that use speech recognition and intent understanding. 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, 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.