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Microsoft contractors listened to audio from Xbox consoles

This included Kinect and Cortana commands, some of which were accidental from the players.

During the early stages of the Xbox One there was a big push behind the voice commands for the console (remember the trailer with Aaron Paul talking to his console?), and it turns out that Microsoft contractors actually listened to recordings users made when using the console, as reported by Vice.

"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," a former contractor said, having listened to Kinect commands between 2014 and 2015, before Cortana made its way in during 2016.

"The Xbox stuff was actually a bit of a welcome respite, honestly. It was frequently the same games. Same DLCs. Same types of commands," they continued. "Occasionally I heard 'Xbox, tell Solas to heal,' or something similar, which would be a command for Dragon Age: Inquisition."

The same report says that Cortana commands were also listened to. "As time went on, we got less apparently accidental stuff as the feature improved," the former contractor continues.

"Most of the Xbox related stuff I can recall doing was obviously unintentional activations with people telling Cortana 'No' as they were obviously in the middle of a game and doing normal game chat," a current contractor added.

Interestingly, the former contractor also said: "I recall explicitly being told 'you probably shouldn't mention it was for Microsoft' during the hiring process."

A Microsoft spokesperson addressed the issue in a statement to Vice, saying that they "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."

"We've long been clear that we collect voice data to improve voice-enabled services and that this data is sometimes reviewed by vendors," Microsoft adds. "We've recently updated our privacy statement to add greater clarity that people sometimes review this data as part of the product improvement process."

"We always get customer permission before collecting voice data, we take steps to de-identify voice snippets being reviewed to protect people's privacy, and we require that handling of this data be held to the highest privacy standards in the law. At the same time, we're actively working on additional steps we can take to give customers more transparency and more control over how their data is used to improve products."

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