16:56 GMT19 October 2020
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    The US-based tech giant, in an emailed statement cited by Reuters, stated that the company collects voice data to provide voice-enabled services for Skype and Cortana and sometimes uses vendors to assist in improving these services.

    “We realized, based on questions raised recently, that we could do a better job specifying that humans sometimes review this content [...] We’ve updated our privacy statement and product FAQs to add greater clarity and will continue to examine further opportunities to improve”, a spokesperson for Microsoft said, cited by Reuters.

    According to the official Microsoft support webpage, the company stores a copy of user audio recordings to help speech-recognition engines add personalized speech services.

    "This may include transcription of audio recordings by Microsoft employees and vendors, subject to procedures designed to prioritize 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", the updated privacy policy says.

    Users can delete voice data and turn off the collection of voice recordings, according to Microsoft.

    US-based tech giants, including Microsoft, Facebook, Apple and Google, have been facing a backlash from legislators and authorities amid media reports revealing controversial privacy practices.

    Facebook recently came under fire again after it was revealed that the social media giant had been paying hundreds of contract laborers to transcribe audio clips from users of its services.

    A spokesperson for Facebook told CNBC that the company had, however, "paused human review of audio".

    Unlike Microsoft, Facebook has been repeatedly accused of violating the privacy of user data.

    NBC News earlier reported that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his team utilized user data as a leverage tool and a reward in their business dealings with over 150 companies.

    Cooperation agreements between Facebook and other firms reportedly provided the social media tech giant with the opportunity to see users’ friends, contact information and other data, often without user consent.

    The New York Times reported that Facebook has claimed that it phased out most of the partnership agreements that participated in user data collection and distribution over the last two years.

    In July, internet giant Google admitted that its employees had access to private audio recordings collected by the Google Assistant artificial intelligence agent.

    Google Product Manager David Monsees vowed in a corporate statement to take undefined measures on the matter.


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    privacy, collection, data, voice, Microsoft
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