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Your Xbox Is Listening to You, and So Are Microsoft’s Contractors - Gizmodo

Date published: 2019-08-22
Originally published: Here. Transcribed below.

Microsoft Xbox owners will bummed to learn that humans have been listening to some of their voice commands. Motherboard recently spoke to a number of Microsoft contractors who said theyd been hired by the company to review Xbox and Cortana voice commands to improve the technology. This is the same sort of thing thats been happening with all kinds of voice assistants lately, but that doesnt make it any less unsettling.
This latest report follows an earlier Motherboard report about Microsoft hiring contractors to listen to Skype recordings. It sounds like a similar team was also recruited to review Xbox recordings in order to train the software that powers the voice control features. One contractor did say that most of the voices they heard were of children. Which is creepy.
Still, its glaringly obvious now that adding voice control to various devices has typically involved humans listening to our recordings. The technology that powers voice control and voice assistants simply requires human review in order to improve. Its also very clear that the companies building this technology have done a terrible job communicating this human involvement to users.
Since reports emerged earlier this year that humans were reviewing Amazon Alexa recordings, weve learned that similar teams were at work at Apple, Google, and Facebook. Those three companies have since suspended their human review processes. Amazon, meanwhile, has offered users the option to opt-out of being included in the human review process. And following Motherboards reporting, Microsoft has updated its privacy policy to specify that its processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) methods of processing.
So game on, Xbox users. But realize that whatever you say to your console might eventually be heard by a human hired by Microsoft. Theyre not exactly spying. But they are listening.

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