Microsoft is to continue using human reviewers to analyse some voice-enabled services despite mounting privacy concerns about the practice across the technology sector.
The computing giant has admitted that it could “do a better job” in highlighting that humans review content, after a recent report said that contractors are able to listen to some conversations that go through Skype’s translation function.
It was also claimed that workers could also listen to voice commands spoken to Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana, Motherboard reported.
The firm says it collects voice data to improve some products, such as checking translations.
While Microsoft stated in its previous policies that it may analyse audio recordings to improve translations, it did not make clear that humans may be listening in too, which the company has now amended.
However, the move does not follow that of Apple and Google, which decided to suspend the practice of using human reviewers to analyse some recordings gathered through their respective virtual assistants.
Meanwhile, Amazon chose a different approach, giving its virtual assistant users the option to opt out of having human reviewers rather than removing them completely.
“We take steps to de-identify the content provided to vendors, require non-disclosure agreements with all vendors and their employees to protect our customer’s privacy, and require that handling of this data be held to the highest privacy standards set out in European law,” a Microsoft spokeswoman said.
“At the same time, we’re always looking to improve transparency and help customers make more informed choices.
“We realised, based on questions raised recently, that we could do a better job specifying that humans sometimes review this content.
“We’ve updated our privacy statement and product FAQs to add greater clarity and will continue to examine further opportunities to improve.”
Facebook became the latest technology firm to admit listening to and analysing some audio recordings from users.
The social network said it had reviewed some small segments of audio to help improve the artificial intelligence of the transcription feature within its Messenger app.
The feature enables users to dictate a message with their voice before Facebook’s software transcribes it into text.
But the social networking firm said it has now ended the practice.
- Press Association