Microsoft will continue to let humans transcribe Skype Translations and Cortana conversations

(Lack of) privacy: Over the past couple of months, several tech companies have faced criticism for allowing humans to transcribe audio conversations between users, and conversations between humans and virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. Of the companies who have been exposed for these practices, Amazon, Facebook, and Google have all agreed to temporarily pause transcription until a wider conversation about privacy can be had.

As reported by Motherboard, though, Microsoft has broken away from the pack and will continue to employ transcriptionists (both contractors and full-time employees). These individuals will listen to recordings captured by Skype’s Translator feature and the Cortana virtual assistant; even if those recordings contain sensitive, confidential, or otherwise private information.

With that said, Microsoft is not completely ignoring the outcry. “We realized, based on questions raised recently, that we could do a better job specifying that humans sometimes review this content,” a company spokesperson told Motherboard in a statement. The outlet claims that Microsoft’s privacy policy and Skype Translator FAQ did not mention that humans may listen to captured audio to “improve the service,” but moving forward, both those resources will contain this information.

“Our processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) methods of processing,” the privacy policy now discloses. “Our automated methods often are related to and supported by our manual methods.”

Whether or not these small steps will be enough for privacy activists and the public remains to be seen.

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