Microsoft contractors reportedly listened in to Cortana and Xbox audio recordings

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Game chat,” a contractor currently employed by Microsoft anonymously told Motherboard.

“Occasionally I heard ‘Xbox, tell Solas to heal,’ or something similar, which would be a command for Dragon Age: Inquisition,” the contractor went on.

The contractors note that over time the accidental recordings have waned as the Cortana system has improved, and in July of this year Cortana was removed from being directly commanded by voice on Xbox One. That said, Cortana can still be used to command your Xbox One via the Xbox Skill for Cortana via the Cortana app on iOS, Android, and Windows or via Harmon Kardon Xbox and Cortana users may have been listened in to via unintentional recordings made in customers homes a report by Motherboard states. 

Cortana, Microsoft’s ‘virtual assistant’ present in Windows 10, the Xbox One, and other Microsoft devices, can respond to voice commands. In order to improve the voice command system contractors employed by Microsoft would capture voice commands and then listen back to them, a practice started at the beginning of the Xbox One lifecycle. However, it appears that voice recordings were made outside of these commands and recorded and listened to by accident.

“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 

Xbox and Cortana users concerned for their privacy can sign into a dedicated page Microsoft has set up to delete and control voice recordings made associated with your Microsoft account.

Microsoft have since informed Motherboard in a statement that they have since stopped listening in to Xbox One voice commands, stating: “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”.

We’ll be keeping our eyes on this story as it develops, stay tuned to the Newsroom for more up to date news, information, and gaming updates.