Microsoft contractors listened to Xbox One voice command recordings

A report from Vice reveals that Microsoft contractors listened to audio recordings of Xbox One users in order to improve the Kinect’s voice commands.

Contractors working for Microsoft have listened to audio of Xbox users speaking in their homes in order to improve the console’s voice command features, Motherboard has learned. The audio was supposed to be captured following a voice command like “Xbox” or “Hey Cortana,” but contractors said that recordings were sometimes triggered and recorded by mistake.

The news is the latest in a string of revelations that show contractors working on behalf of Microsoft listen to audio captured by several of its products. Motherboard previously reported that human contractors were listening to some Skype calls as well as audio recorded by Cortana, Microsoft’s Siri-like virtual assistant.

“Xbox commands came up first as a bit of an outlier and then became about half of what we did before becoming most of what we did,” one former contractor who worked on behalf of Microsoft told Motherboard. Motherboard granted multiple sources in this story anonymity as they had signed non-disclosure agreements.

The former contractor said they worked on Xbox audio data from 2014 to 2015, before Cortana was implemented into the console in 2016. When it launched in November 2013, the Xbox One had the capability to be controlled via voice commands with the Kinect.

In a statement, Microsoft says that they have stopped the practice.

“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,” a company spokesperson told Vice.

“We occasionally review a low volume of voice recordings sent from one Xbox user to another when there are reports that a recording violated our terms of service and we need to investigate. This is done to keep the Xbox community safe and is clearly stated in our Xbox terms of service,” the spokesperson added.

For more details, read the full report at Vice.

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