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Beware, Skype users! Microsoft workers are listening to your private conversations

BusinessToday.In     August 9, 2019

IT giant Microsoft's contractors are listening to private conversations of Skype users through app translation service, according to a new report by Motherboard.  The Skype's  audio recordings, screenshots and cache of internal documents include intimate conversation of the the app users, their personal matters like relationship problems, health issues and other private chats, claimed Motherboard.

The website of Microsoft-owned Skype says that the company analyses audio of phone calls that a user wants to translate in the chat platform, but it does not specify the analysis of such chats are done by human beings.

In 2015, Skype launched its Translator service which lets user get real-time audio translations during a phone or a video call.  The app's FAQ section for translator states:  "Skype collects and uses your conversation to help improve Microsoft products and services. To help the translation and speech recognition technology learn and grow, sentences and automatic transcripts are analysed." However, the app does not explicitly say humans might be listening the conversation of Skype users.

Motherboard, further, claimed that when a Microsoft's contractor has to transcribe a piece of audio, they are given a series of approximate translations generated by Skype's translation system. The contractor then needs to select the most accurate translation and the audio is treated as confidential information.

The other files, obtained by Motherboard, also revealed that Microsoft workers were also listening to users' commands to company's voice assistant software Cortana.

Microsoft is not the only Silicon Valley company listening to recording of users. In April this year, it was revealed that Amazon's voice assistant Alexa was sometimes recording private conversations. Then in July, it emerged that the Google Assistant as well as Apple's Siri were doing the same. After facing a severe backlash, both Google and Apple suspended their use of human transcribers for their Siri and Google Assistant services.

Also read: TRAI to decide on future of WhatsApp, Skype: Free VoIP and video callings apps may come under regulatory framework

Also read: Apple offers researchers nearly Rs 7 crore to detect flaws in iPhones

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