Microsoft bucks trend, maintains contractor reviews of voice recording

Cortana integration lets Windows Phone users speak to the new Band.

Cortana integration lets Windows Phone users speak to the new Band.

A wave of privacy scandals has led several major companies to end or pause their programs for human reviews of voice recordings. But Microsoft has bucked the trend.

Last week, a whistleblower went to the press to reveal that Microsoft relied on employees and contractors to review recordings made by its Skype Translator call platform and its Cortana voice assistant. The company had documentation informing users that audio recorded by its services might be reviewed to improve systems for language processing, but there was no explicit mention that the reviews would be done by humans.

In response to the outcry, Microsoft has revised its privacy policy, FAQs, and other language to clarify that there are people who will listen to captured audio. The company’s privacy policy now states that “Our processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) methods of processing.” The FAQ pages for Skype Translator and Cortana have also been updated to explain that Microsoft employees or contractors might transcribe and review recordings. Both FAQs note the privacy protections Microsoft has for those activities, which it also presented when the initial reports about its review program were published.

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