Microsoft Contractors Found Listening to Some Audio Calls When Skype Translator Feature is Active

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Aug 7, 2019.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Microsoft contractors are listening to conversations between users on Skype who use its translation feature, according to Motherboard. This is done only if users are performing a translation function in Skype and not during any other typical Skype voice or video call.


    The information gathered includes Skype audio regarding intimate conversations between couples and more. The data also suggests that Microsoft contractors listen to voice commands spoken to Cortana, the company's smart voice assistant. The information seen by Microsoft contractors is anonymized and doesn't contain any user identifiable information.

    These contractors (who mostly work from home) do manual translations of Skype audio conversations, sent by Microsoft along with a series of approximate translations generated by Skype's AI program. The contractor has to select the most accurate translation or provide their own, and they send the information back to Microsoft.

    Microsoft warns users that it analyzes audio of translated calls in Skype to improve its services, but it does not mention that some of the analysis will be done by humans. The translation feature lets users perform real-time audio translations during phone and video calls, powered by artificial intelligence.
    According to Microsoft, the company's terminology on its Skype translator feature and on Cortana are clear and straightforward in how it uses voice data to improve each service. "We strive to be transparent about our collection and use of voice data to ensure customers can make informed choices about when and how their voice data is used," the company said.

    Microsoft also said that the audio data sent to contractors is through a secure online portal, and that it ensures any identifying information (like the user's name or device identification numbers) are removed. Despite all of this, Microsoft's terminology still doesn't mention that human workers might listen to your Skype translation conversations, or Cortana commands.

    The Skype story from Motherboard emerges today following previous articles centered on human workers listening to Siri recordings at Apple and Google Assistant recordings at Google. Following these reports, Apple suspended its own program wherein contractors listened to anonymized Siri recordings for quality control purposes.

    Article Link: Microsoft Contractors Found Listening to Some Audio Calls When Skype Translator Feature is Active
  2. Nugget macrumors 68000


    Nov 24, 2002
    Houston Texas USA
    Intimate conversations between couples who don't speak the same language and rely on Skype translation services to communicate? Color me skeptical. The reporting on this seems a bit overblown and drama-seeking to me.
  3. nexesnex macrumors regular

    Sep 18, 2014
  4. I7guy macrumors Core


    Nov 30, 2013
    Gotta be in it to win it
    Lately “transparency” is a moving definition. AI needs help from humans to get surprise.
  5. HardRain macrumors regular

    Mar 31, 2012
  6. benshive macrumors regular

    Feb 26, 2017
    United States
    I'm always surprised that people are surprised by this. If recorded audio is being processed and used to improve a service like a translator, personal assistant, etc. of course there's a group of employees that can hear it.
  7. macnchiefs macrumors regular

    Mar 22, 2009
    Welp, I'm pretty sure this has gone full circle now... are there any other companies out there that are big enough to hire contractors to do this kind of analysis? If so it's best to just assume they use contractors at this point.
  8. alexandr macrumors 6502a


    Nov 11, 2005
    sure, i use to to talk to my grandparents!
  9. ipponrg macrumors 68000

    Oct 15, 2008
    Contractors are easier to hire and to let go. In addition, 1st party companies don't have to pay them benefits.
  10. LIVEFRMNYC macrumors 604

    Oct 27, 2009
    Yup, worldwide it's used more than any other video chat.
  11. heov macrumors regular

    Aug 16, 2002
    Of course they do. it might be the most popular... What else are they going to use for personal video calls? Duo lol? Whatsapp? FaceTime is only Apple to Apple, which is a small portion of the worldwide market. The fact that Skype can do real time translations is an example on why people would even use Skype! It's so feature rich.
  12. BGPL macrumors regular


    May 4, 2016
    Great, an illegal wiretap. What if they hear about a plot to injury and/or kill others? Do they ignore or tell someone about it.
  13. BeforeTheMeds macrumors 6502


    Jun 26, 2016
    Edomx, MX

    Yes, while it’s widely used in some place in Latin America at least WhatsApp dominates big time. The majority of the world uses free services. China uses something else. I doubt Skype is the most popular, us maybe.
  14. Relentless Power, Aug 7, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2019

    Relentless Power macrumors Penryn

    Relentless Power

    Jul 12, 2016
    I’d disagree to an extent. Privacy is valued by some who know how to manage it based on what that individual participates in (i.e Social media being the main). The only company I actually trust with my privacy/credentials, would be Apple. Because that’s one of their main aspirations/goals, is the consumers privacy.
  15. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    You’re right. I frequently discuss my evil killer plans over Skype audio with somebody who speaks in a different language that I can’t understand. This news has made me rethink my otherwise inconspicuous behaviour.
  16. Dkka1 macrumors member

    Feb 28, 2019
    You mean one of their marketing mottos.

    Jesus, how can you be so naive.
  17. garylapointe macrumors 68000


    Feb 19, 2006
    Dearborn (Detroit), MI, USA
    This seems pretty obvious. Without humans, how else would you check to see if the software is translating it properly?

    That said, they could just send clips of words and translations to confirm they translated them properly and not the whole conversation (and then when a mistake is found, it could point back to the original to see the context and how that could help with the computer predicting the correct word).
  18. ikramerica macrumors 6502

    Apr 10, 2009
    Unvetted contractor employees sitting at home in pajamas? Or well paid NDA MS employees working in a secure office?

    Im always annoyed that despite the massive payrolls of MS, Apple, Google, etc that these privacy critical activities are outsourced to sketchy 3rd parties in foreign lands. Now granted there may be an issue of not having the right foreignlanguage assets in house, but you can hire them directly if you care about privacy.
  19. Baymowe335 macrumors 601

    Oct 6, 2017
    Seems industry standard now, unfortunately.

    I am an Apple and big business defender, but come on.

    If this has to be done, hire the people directly as employees and subject them to massive oversight.
  20. crcuilla macrumors newbie

    Feb 5, 2019
    Except that good language translation involves more than just a word for word substitution.
  21. femike macrumors 6502

    Oct 15, 2011
    If they can listen to some, they can listen to all, with the US gov agencies having complete access.
  22. Morgenland, Aug 7, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2019

    Morgenland Suspended


    May 28, 2009
    Skype was one of the PRISM/NSA's most eager messengers. Have we all forgotten?
    Now P2P is consequently also a thing of the past.
    --- Post Merged, Aug 7, 2019 ---
    Why do you fantasize about "foreign lands"?
    Aren't you strong enough to face reality?

    Internet and global economy make this world one school class. However, the stupid wherever never notice.
  23. Gasu E. macrumors 601

    Gasu E.

    Mar 20, 2004
    Not far from Boston, MA.
    If this post isn't sarcasm, you have a serious perspective problem. If an international conversation takes place in two different languages, and connects two different countries, then which side is the "foreign" one? Friend, to 99% of the world, YOU would be the foreigner.
  24. AxiomaticRubric macrumors 6502


    Sep 24, 2010
    On Mars, Praising the Omnissiah

    ...says the subliminal message encoded into your PC monitor. :eek:
  25. Dave-Z macrumors 6502a

    Jun 26, 2012

Share This Page

31 August 7, 2019