Report: Contractors Have Listened To Inadvertently Recorded Audio From Xbox Owners’ Homes

Report: Contractors Have Listened To Inadvertently Recorded Audio From Xbox Owners’ Homes
Xbox One (Image: Microsoft)

Microsoft contractors working on Xbox have gained access to audio recordings of Xbox owners’ home life, a Vice Motherboard report revealed today. According to the report, accidentally triggered Xbox voice commands would result in audio recordings stored by Microsoft, which contractors could hear.

The report, titled “Microsoft Contractors Listened to Xbox Owners in Their Homes,” explains how Xbox captured audio from unassuming gamers. “Xbox” plus another word like “on” or “help” triggers specific voice commands for the console, as do the words “Hey Cortana.”

While it was previously known that Microsoft could record and access audio logs, it wasn’t clear that accidental recordings were a problem. One current contractor told Motherboard that some accidental activations were people “people telling Cortana ‘No’ as they were obviously in the middle of a game and doing normal game chat.” A former contractor added that lots of other voices heard in recordings were children’s.

Xbox’s now-defunct Kinect used to take voice commands, and after that, Cortana, which will soon be removed from the Xbox One.

Microsoft explained to Motherboard that they’ve “long been clear that we collect voice data to improve voice-enabled services and that this data is sometimes reviewed by vendors.” A representative added, “We’ve recently updated our privacy statement to add greater clarity that people sometimes review this data as part of the product improvement process.”

Motherboard had also reported that Microsoft contractors could hear Skype and Cortana audio, too, and noted that Microsoft’s privacy policy changed after that prior reporting to more clearly reflect the fact that actual people might listen to recorded audio.

You can read the full report on Xbox here.


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