Skype audio being reviewed in ‘secure facilities’, says Microsoft

This comes after a worrying report that Microsoft contractors in China are reportedly listening to calls made on Skype as well as recordings on digital assistant Cortana
By HT CORRESPONDENT
| Updated on Jan 11 2020, 03:54 PM IST
After a worrying report that Microsoft contractors in China are reportedly listening to calls made on Skype as well as recordings on digital assistant Cortana, Microsoft has announced that their calls are now transcribed in a “secure facilities in a small number of countries”.
After a worrying report that Microsoft contractors in China are reportedly listening to calls made on Skype as well as recordings on digital assistant Cortana, Microsoft has announced that their calls are now transcribed in a “secure facilities in a small number of countries”. (AP)

After a worrying report that Microsoft contractors in China are reportedly listening to calls made on Skype as well as recordings on digital assistant Cortana, Microsoft has announced that their calls are now transcribed in a "secure facilities in a small number of countries".

Microsoft also mentioned in the statement sent to CNET that they have made changes, including moving its review program to other facilities, none of which are in China.

A Microsoft contractor from Beijing had informed The Guardian that he had "recorded Skype calls with little cybersecurity security from possible state disturbance" and "he reviewed hundreds of audio recordings from Skype and also Cortana on his individual laptop computer from his residence in Beijing over a two-year duration".

The contractor said that he heard "all kinds of unusual conversations" while performing the transcription. "It sounds a bit crazy now, after educating myself on computer security, that they gave me the URL, username and password sent over email," he was quoted as saying.

According to The Guardian Report "there was little vetting of staff members and also no safety and security actions in area to safeguard the audio recordings from state or criminal disturbance".

The specialist informed The Guardian he listened to "all kinds of unusual conversations" while doing the transcription. "It sounds a bit crazy now, after educating myself on computer security, that they gave me the URL, a username and password sent over email."

Microsoft in August last year admitted that third-party contractors listen to voice conversations on Skype and virtual assistant Cortana. The revelation came after Motherboard found contractors were listening to audio from both Skype and Cortana, including sensitive and personal conversations of Microsoft customers.

Microsoft's human review contractors were paid between $12 and $14 an hour for the job, and transcribe up to 200 audio clips every hour.

Apple, Google and Amazon recently suspended human review of user audio recordings after reports said the companies used third-party contractors to listen to users' voice recordings. While Apple suspended the programme that let its virtual assistant Siri listen to users' recordings for "quality control", Google stopped listening and transcribing Google Assistant recordings in Europe.

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First Published Date: 11 Jan, 03:54 PM IST
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