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Third-party Contractors Listen to Your Skype, Cortana Chats; Admits Microsoft

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

Microsoft has admitted that third-party contractors listen to your voice conversations on Skype and virtual assistant Cortana.

The revelation came after Motherboard found contractors were listening to audio from both services, including sensitive and personal conversations of Microsoft customers.

“We realised, based on questions raised recently, that we could do a better job specifying that humans sometimes review this content,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Motherboard on Wednesday.

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

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

“Our processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) methods,” read Microsoft’s privacy policy.

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

“We manually review short snippets of a small sampling of voice data. We have taken steps to de-identify to improve our speech services, such as recognition and translation,” it added.

The Skype Translator’s new FAQ read: “This may include transcription of audio recordings by Microsoft employees and vendors, subject to procedures designed to protect users’ privacy, including taking steps to de-identify data, requiring non-disclosure agreements with vendors and their employees, and requiring that vendors meet the high privacy standards set out in European law and elsewhere”.

The tech giant, however, did not disclose whether it will disband the practice.

According to Motherboard, Microsoft’s human review contractors are paid between $12 and $14 an hour for the job, and transcribe up to 200 audio clips every hour.

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After Google, Apple and Amazon, Facebook has become the latest tech giant who was paying third-party contractors to transcribe and listen to your conversations on its Messenger app.

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

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Microsoft Joins Hands with Eros Now to Develop Next-generation Online Video Platform

The collaboration would help Eros transform not only how it delivers streaming services to its consumers but also to reimagine the offerings it can provide

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

Over-the-top (OTT) video platform Eros Now on Thursday joined hands with Microsoft to build a next-generation online video platform on the latter”s cloud computing service “Azure”.

“The online video market has brought a paradigm shift in the way technology is used and will be used to enhance the customer journey and user experience. We at Eros Now have been the earliest movers in the adoption of technology which is a core strength of the brand,” Rishika Lulla Singh, CEO-Eros Digital, said in a statement.

Using Microsoft Azure and Azure Media Services, Eros would develop a new, intuitive online video platform that would provide seamless delivery of content for its consumers across geographies and languages, supported by a robust infrastructure including Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN).

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

“By using our combined expertise across technology and media, we have an opportunity to build on that foundation and re-imagine entertainment for the rapidly growing audience of digitally-connected consumers in India,” added Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice President, Microsoft.

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The collaboration would help Eros transform not only how it delivers streaming services to its consumers but also to reimagine the offerings it can provide.

“India is one of the fastest-growing digital entertainment and media markets worldwide, driven by the growth in online video content. AI and intelligent cloud tools will be the next drivers of the media business and will impact everything from content creation to consumer experience,” said Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India. (IANS)