THINK DIFFERENT might be Apple's old strap-line, but Microsoft seems to have adopted it as unlike everyone else, Redmond keep using humans to listen to recorded Skype and Cortana conversations.
Much like Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook, Microsoft was found to be using human contractors to assess the effectiveness of its artificial intelligence tech through comparing results coughed up by the likes of Cortana and Skype Translator against what was actually said in a conversation with the virtual assistant or between people.
Google, Apple and the others have decided to stop using humans contractors to pour over recorded audio and conversations after eyebrows were seriously raised about the ethic and privacy implications of such a practice, even though some people have given consent for such human perusal to happen.
But Microsoft seems keen to keep using to continue subjecting its contractors to the likely inane sputterings of some of its customers, as the company has clarified in its updated privacy policies for Cortana and other voice-activated services that the human review process will only be used for assessing and improving the performance of its AI tech and nothing else.
"When you talk to Cortana or other apps that use Microsoft speech services, Microsoft stores a copy of your audio recordings," the company explained.
Redmond added: "This may include transcription of audio recordings by Microsoft employees and vendors, subject to procedures designed to prioritise users' privacy, including taking steps to de-identify data, requiring non-disclosure agreements with vendors and their employees, and requiring that vendors meet the high privacy standards set out in European law and elsewhere."
Of course, there are plenty of opt-out clauses and ways to purge the audio from Microsoft's stores, but we suspect many people will simply blast through the privacy permissions for such audio services and end up letting Microsoft use their recordings without really knowing it. But at least Microsoft is providing such options, rather than sucking up such data and not making any effort to tell folks what it's doing.
Nevertheless, we reckon all this could see Microsoft furnished will all manner of interesting recordings from "mattteee I need a coffee" and "Sox PUT THAT DOWN", to grunty sex noises and "umm not that hole". μ
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