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Microsoft The Latest To Be Criticized For Using Humans To Listen To User Audio

Dave Royse

Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) is the latest tech company to be criticized for using humans to review audio captured through devices, raising more privacy concerns about in-home tech.

Vice reported that contractors working for Microsoft were paid to listen to audio from Xbox users in the hopes of improving the gaming system’s voice command capabilities.

The company responded in a statement to Vice that it has stopped listening to voice recordings captured by Xbox systems, though recordings are still made.

"We occasionally review a low volume of voice recordings sent from one Xbox user to another when there are reports that a recording violated our terms of service and we need to investigate. This is done to keep the Xbox community safe and is clearly stated in our Xbox terms of service," the Microsoft spokesperson told Vice. 

Privacy Concerns Across Tech Space

The news follows reports earlier this month that Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) contracted to have people listen to the audio in video chats in the company’s Messenger app.

When users opt in to have their video chats transcribed into text, many users may believe a computer is completely responsible for generating and checking the text.

Vice’s Motherboard tech site also reported recently that human contractors hired by Microsoft listened to some Skype calls and audio recorded by the company’s digital assistant Cortana, also aimed at improving the technology.

Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL) announced earlier this month that it would stop having humans review recordings of people interacting with its digital assistant, Siri, after criticism of the practice.

Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL)’s Google also has paused its use of human “language reviews.”

Microsoft shares were down 1.7% at $136.42 at the time of publication Thursday. 

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