Technology 3 min read

Microsoft Confirms Listening to Xbox Voice Recordings of Users

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that the company hired contractors in the past to listen to Xbox voice recordings of users.

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Microsoft has admitted to letting human contractors listen to your Xbox voice recordings. However, the tech giant said it stopped the practice a long time ago.

According to Motherboard, it all started when Microsoft wanted to improve the command feature of the Xbox One console. So, it hired contractors to listen to the audio recordings of users speaking in their homes.

At first, the contractors were listening to voice commands directed at the Kinect camera. Then Microsoft introduced the voice assistant, Cortana to the console and they had more options.

Most of the recordings occurred when users ask the console to perform specific functions. For example, when a user says “Xbox” or “Hey Cortana,” the console captures the voice command along with other recordings.

While these were intentional, the contractors admitted that users would sometimes trigger recordings mistakenly.

The contractors also reported frequently hearing children’s voices in their recordings. While this is alarming, it’s not entirely surprising. It’s after all a gaming console.

In a statement to the Motherboard, an anonymous contractor said:

“The Xbox stuff was actually a bit of a welcome respite, honestly. It was frequently the same games. Same DLCs. Same types of commands.”

Yet, the privacy regulations that apply for children is way stricter than with adults.

Xbox Voice Recordings Not the First

Microsoft has already confirmed that it records Skype calls when people use the app’s language translation feature as well as voice commands on Cortana on Windows. So, the Xbox voice recording is not an isolated case.

According to the tech giant, it’s collecting the voice data to improve its services and voice recognition system. However, it stopped the practice for Xbox a few months ago.

Speaking to Motherboard, a Microsoft spokesperson said:

“We stopped reviewing any voice content taken through Xbox for product improvement purposes a number of months ago, as we no longer felt it was necessary, and we have no plans to re-start those reviews.”

With that said, Microsoft has not paused this current practice with other products. Instead, the company says it’s selling to offer “greater clarity” to consumers.

“We always get customer permission before collecting voice data. We take steps to de-identify voice snippets being reviewed to protect people’s privacy, and we require that handling of this data be held to the highest privacy standards in the law.”

Microsoft announced last month that it intends to remove Cortana from the Xbox One. Now, users have to depend on either Amazon‘s Alexa or Google Assistant to control the console.

Read More: Facebook Hired Contractors To Transcribe Audio Clips Of Users

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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