Microsoft also spied on Xbox players

by Jerry

Microsoft, already accused of making Human Skype calls and conversations listen to Skype calls and conversations, also spied on Xbox players who used Cortana or Kinect. Redmond's firm says it ended the program several months ago and does not intend to restart it. Another controversy after the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri business.

Microsoft paid for the services of subcontractors whose mission was to listen to the conversations of Xbox users, reports Motherboard. The console was supposed to record only voice commands after players uttered the keywords "Xbox" or "Hey Cortana." But employees at Redmond's firm say they also listened to audio files recovered when the Xbox could be controlled via voice commands with the Kinect system.

Xbox: Microsoft listened to players via Kinect and cortana

Motherboard sources explain that it was not uncommon for them to receive vocal samples that should not have been treated. According to them, it was not necessarily voluntary on the part of Microsoft and it seems that it was the players who accidentally triggered the recording, which was then sent to the servers of the American group. Over time, this type of incident would have diminished, but continues to exist.

"We stopped reviewing any voice content recorded via Xbox for product enhancement several months ago, as we no longer thought it was necessary and we have no intention of relaunching these reviews,"a spokesperson told the media. "We sometimes look at a low volume of voice recordings sent from one Xbox user to another when it is reported that a recording has breached our terms of service and we need to investigate. This is done to ensure the security of the Xbox community and is clearly stated in our Xbox terms of service,"he adds.

A few weeks ago, Microsoft announced the abandonment of Cortana natively on Xbox One. Players no longer have the ability to use the services of the smart assistant through a headset, for example. The Cortana skill via the Android, iOS or Windows app is still available. It allows you to turn on the console, adjust the volume, launch games or apps, take screenshots… For almost a year, it is also possible to reallocize all this on Xbox One through the Amazon Alexa skill.

Microsoft already accused of spying on Skype calls

Recently, Motherboard already accused Microsoft of listening to Skype conversations. Again, subcontractors, working mostly from their homes, received audio files from Redmond's firm and had to transcribe and translate them for voice calls made with the translation tool. Microsoft made it clear under its conditions that these conversations could be analyzed, but without informing users that it was humans and not robots that were listening.

Despite the controversy, Microsoft will continue to listen to Skype conversations. Redmond's firm simply revised its terms of use in response to the case, stating that humans can listen to certain voice calls (and requests made to Cortana). "Our processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) processing methods. (…) We manually review short code excerpts from a small sample of voice data. We have taken steps to make them anonymous in order to improve our voice services, such as recognition and translation,"the US group now says, adding that subcontractors must meet the highest standards of privacy.

Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri

In recent weeks, all the major US tech groups that are developing a popular voice assistant have been pinned for similar facts. Amazon has not changed its habits with Alexa and will continue to listen to conversations. However, it is possible to go to the app's settings to disable the option and prevent Amazon from listening to you(> Alexa settings and your personal information > Manage how your data helps improve Alexa > Contribute to improve Amazon services and develop new features).

Before that, Mountain View and Cupertino had to respond to similar charges. Google and Apple announced at the time that they would stop listening to conversations via Assistant and Siri. But in both cases, it is a temporary suspension and both groups intend to resume their habits. Apple promises Siri an option to refuse to be listened to, like Amazon with Alexa.

Google's intentions on this matter are not yet clear. The leak of the conversation data of more than 1,000 users in Germany has forced it to pause its programme across Europe for a period of three months. It is not known whether it will be revived as if nothing was afterwards or if society will allow to disable the possibility that our discussions are analyzed by humans.

Source: Motherboard

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