Microsoft Contractors Listening To Recordings Made Via Skype Or Cortana

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

For years, Skype has been a big part of computer users’ experiences regardless of operating system. Whether voice calls, messaging, or video, Skype has a huge share of the user pool. Many Android users use Skype for video chatting in lieu of Apple’s popular Facetime app. It’s also popular among those contacting relatives or friends around the globe.

Skype even introduced an auto translate feature last year. The feature allows for translation between languages in (nearly) real time. Skype has made connecting with people easier than ever, no matter where they are from or their language.

Skype’s translate feature has been praised and for good reason. It is quite impressive that there is an application capable of translating so quickly, allowing people that don’t speak the same language to have a nearly flawless conversation. Of course, with software capable of such amazing things, it’s guaranteed that improvements will constantly be in the works so that it can reach its full potential.

Skype’s translator FAQ does state that calls are collected for data analysis, but that’s vague and may not raise any alarms.

What if I told you that some of those calls were being recorded? Not only that, but they are also being listened to in some cases.

With Skype, the data discovered shows that MOST of the Skype recordings gathered and reviewed are recordings using the translator. Again – that is MOST, not all. These calls contained all kinds of personal information: relationships being discussed, intimate conversations, arguments, you name it.

Skype claims that the information was gathered and listened to only to help improve the product. However, the problem will always go back to the fact that this information was not disclosed.

In fact, many people would say Skype was dishonest in the way that the privacy information was portrayed. Microsoft, who owns Skype, of course states that they only collected voice recordings with customer permission. Micro­soft also ensures that the data is treated as confidential information, but humans are still listening to personal conversations. The confidentiality of that seems suspect.

Then there is Cortana, Windows’ built-in digital assistance. Cortana can search for you, using voice commands. Much like more well-publicized assistants (such as Amazon’s Alexa), Cortana can help you by pulling up search results, maps, or other information you may need. Of course, Cortana also can remember some of your information for you.

So let’s think about Cortana being used in the real world. Asking Cortana about that embarrassing rash? Punching in your home address? Someone might be listening to that too.

The stance on the Skype calls (even though not ALL calls listened to were made with translator) is that Microsoft is collecting data for the purpose of improving its translator feature – so what about Cortana? Is listening to a person’s voice searches really improving any sort of programming?

Possibly, but that sort of testing could be done without the use of private recordings.

Is Skype For Business Right For Your Company?

Last month, Microsoft released its vision video preview for Skype for Business, which suggested some major changes to ways we currently conduct business.

The video shows a wrist-worn communication device that allows you to contact colleagues on the fly. It also illustrates how Skype can help people be virtually present in the office while actually working in the field.

Skype-powered technology can integrate data into one space and share it on a big screen to facilitate brainstorming, can instantly translate speech into a number of languages, and even simulate a doctor’s house call – if what is depicted in the preview becomes a reality.

Really, nothing in Microsoft’s Skype for Business preview is all that far-fetched. Skype has already drastically changed how people keep in touch on both business and personal levels.

Presently, you can video chat with anyone, anywhere to conduct interviews or meetings. It’s not that big of a leap to envision using Skype to do these same things in the great outdoors or to integrate it with web searches and data files. The basic technology is already there; the vision video just shows some tweaks and new exciting applications.

The possibilities illustrated in the preview video highlight Microsoft’s mission to develop cross-platform technology that increases productivity.

While Skype for Business may not initially perform as seamlessly as the video leads us to believe – especially when real-time translation has yet to be perfected – there are products already advertised that do similar things.

Microsoft’s Surface Hub combines Skype with an 84-inch touchscreen display, and the HoloLens promises to take holograms and headsets to the next level.