Microsoft affirms its transparency in voice data collection

Microsoft affirms its transparency in the collection and use of voice data to ensure customers can actively choose when and how to use their voice data.

On August 7, Microsoft acknowledged that its contractors have listened to a number of interpreted conversations thanks to improved voice translation features of the Skype application and the Cortana virtual assistant, but insisted they only do this with user permission. 

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Before the information about Microsoft's contractors overhearing user conversations about personal topics such as relationships or weight loss, the technology giant says it has collected voice data to provide and improve services that enable voice use such as search, dictation or translation. The company claims that it is always trying to be transparent about the collection and use of voice data to ensure that customers can actively choose when and how to use their voice data. 

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Microsoft also insists on ensuring customer permission before collecting voice data and taking precautions such as eliminating information related to individual users before sharing to partners that are responsible for supporting software or service upgrades. The company also says it has asked partners to meet privacy standards set forth in European law. 

Microsoft makes the above statement after a series of user privacy violations in recent months aroused fears about the future of voice control virtual assistants, rated as a new field of computer technology by experts. Recent incidents involving devices from Google, Apple and Amazon show that despite strong growth in smart devices and speakers, protecting personal data of users when their technology use is becoming increasingly urgent. 

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In an effort to restore users' trust, Apple and Google have recently announced that they have stopped listening to re-evaluate interactive recordings between users and their virtual assistants using voice such as Siri and Google Assistant. Accordingly, Apple has stopped the program to listen to the recorded conversations between users and its Siri virtual assistant and users can choose to quit this program in a new software update version. This program is explained by Apple to improve the quality of its virtual assistant. The decision came after The Guardian last week reported that Apple’s partners were tasked with reassessing recordings that it often listened to confidential information and private conversations. 

Amazon and Google have made similar moves after public interest in privacy. Google has also stopped listening to recordings from the Google assistant service for any purpose and all languages after the Dutch audio data leak. Users can completely turn off the storage of audio data for their Google account or select the auto-delete feature after three months or 18 months. 

By: Grace White

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