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Microsoft Contractors can Listen to Xbox Players’ Chats: Report

Apple, Google and Amazon recently suspended human review of user audio recordings after reports said the companies used third-party contractors to listen to users’ voice recordings

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FILE - Microsoft Corp. signage is seen outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Washington, July 3, 2014. VOA

Do you have a Microsoft video gaming console Xbox at home? It is possible that third-party contractors working for the tech giant are listening to your living room talks.

After revealing that contractors listened to sensitive and personal conversations of users via Skype and virtual assistant Cortana — which Microsoft has admitted — Motherboard now claims the third-party vendors working for the company also “listened to the audio of Xbox users speaking in their homes in order to improve the console’s voice command features”.

The audio — mostly of children as they played video games — was captured by Xbox consoles “by mistake”, the contractors were quoted as saying.

“Xbox commands came up first as a bit of an outlier and then became about half of what we did before becoming most of what we did,” one former contractor was quoted as saying.

The contractors worked on Xbox audio data from 2014 to 2015 before Cortana was implemented into the console in 2016.

“Listening continued as the Xbox moved from using Kinect for voice commands over to Cortana,” the report said on Wednesday.

Microsoft last month announced it plans to remove Cortana from the Xbox but the gaming console can still be controlled through voice commands with either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant on external smart speakers.

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FILE – A sign for Microsoft is seen on a building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 18, 2017. VOA

The company said in a statement: “We’ve long been clear that we collect voice data to improve voice-enabled services and that this data is sometimes reviewed by vendors”.

Last week, Microsoft admitted that third-party contractors were listening to voice conversations on Skype and virtual assistant Cortana.

“We’ve updated our privacy statement and product FAQs to add greater clarity and will continue to examine further opportunities to improve,” the company said.

The updated privacy statement said that human review is used to help build, train and improve the accuracy of its Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems.

Microsoft has joined the likes of Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook who are in the dock for letting third-party contractors listen to users’ talks.

Also Read: Zomato Reconstructs its ‘Gold’ Service to Benefit Restaurants

Apple, Google and Amazon recently suspended human review of user audio recordings after reports said the companies used third-party contractors to listen to users’ voice recordings.

While Apple suspended the programme that let its virtual assistant ‘Siri’ listen to users’ recordings for “quality control”, Google stopped listening and transcribing Google Assistant recordings in Europe. (IANS)

Next Story

Microsoft Preparing to Launch 15-inch Surface Laptop 3

Surface earbuds is also expected to launch, as well as new keyboards with a dedicated Office button taking the place of the right-hand Windows key

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FILE - Microsoft Corp. signage is seen outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Washington, July 3, 2014. VOA

Microsoft may launch a 15-inch Surface Laptop 3 next month alongside a 13.5-inch model, which is the same screen size as the Surface Laptop 2”s.

The company is also expected to launch an AMD-powered Surface Laptop 3 and it is possible that this chip could be found on this rumoured 15-inch model, The Verge reported on Sunday.

As per the report, Microsoft will still offer a screen with a 3:2 aspect ratio, as it did on the 13.5-inch Surface Laptop.

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A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. VOA

In addition, the larger 15-inch model will likely support the Surface Pen as well.

Also Read: Realme 3i: Impressive Look in a Budget Smartphone (Tech Review)

The company is rumoured to launch dual-screen Surface device, codenamed Centaurus. In addition to the Centaurus, Microsoft would bring Surface Laptop 3, Surface Pro 7 and Surface Book 3 in October.

Surface earbuds is also expected to launch, as well as new keyboards with a dedicated Office button taking the place of the right-hand Windows key. (IANS)