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article imageBe careful what you say - Microsoft listens in on Skype calls

By Tim Sandle     Aug 8, 2019 in Technology
New findings suggest that contractors working for Microsoft have been listening in to the conversations of some users of Skype. According to Microsoft the reason is to improve translation services.
News that not all calls made on Skype are private comes from Motherboard, which has obtained details about the translation service feature that the communications app offers. The website has been sent various documents, screenshots and audio recordings.
While Skype features on its website a note that it may analyze audio feed so that the translation service can be improved, there is no mention, Vice notes, that other people might be listening in. That humans are sometimes tuning in appears to be evidenced by the information supplied to Motherboard.
The Skype webpage states: "To help the translation and speech recognition technology learn and grow, sentences and automatic transcripts are analyzed and any corrections are entered into our system, to build more performant services."
The Skype Translator service is designed to provide users with near real-time audio translations during phone and video calls. The product uses artificial intelligence and is designed to improve through machine learning; but like any form of machine learning, this will require a degree of human input.
Microsoft's Skype is not the only service that has been pulled up for listening in on conversations. A separate report found that contractors working for Google have similarly been listening in and transcribing audio recordings captured by Google's AI assistant, Google Home. A similar charge has been levelled at Apple's Siri.
READ MORE: Employees have been listening in to Google Assistant
Alexa has also been found out. It has emerged that Amazon staff have the ability to listen in to questions and commands posed to the Alexa voice assistant. This includes eavesdropping on conversations between children (something which is set to go through the U.S. courts in a legal challenge).
ICYMI: Amazon staff may be listening in on Alexa recordings
While Amazon have yet to declare their intentions, both Apple and Google have indicated they have suspended their use of human transcribers for the Siri and Google Assistant services. This came after a backlash over news about the companies' audio analysis practices.
More about voice assistant, Skype, Microsoft
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