Microsoft Contractors Reportedly Heard You Talking to Your Kinect

Microsoft Contractors Reportedly Heard You Talking to Your Kinect

The listen-ins were apparently meant to improve the service.

All those times you argued with your Xbox One's Kinect or fumbled through a voice command? According to a report from Vice's Motherboard, there was likely someone on the other end of the line.

As part of the outlet's ongoing reporting on contractors listening in on Skype and Cortana, sources told Motherboard that Xbox commands were also part of the listen-in process. Though Cortana has gradually moved from the Kinect to integrated smart phones, voice commands were still utilized and, it seems, still monitored on the platform.

The purpose behind listening in was apparently to improve the product and service, though one contractor tells Motherboard that most of the Xbox-related work they recalled was "obviously unintentional activations" during game chat. There are also references to games like Dragon Age: Inquisition, where you could use voice commands to issue orders, like "heal Solas" or, presumably, "get me out of the Hinterlands."

A Microsoft spokesperson told Motherboard that it has recently stopping listening in to Xbox audio, outside of certain circumstances. "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," the spokesperson said. "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."

Though a former contractor tells Motherboard they were dissuaded from saying they were working for Microsoft at the time, Microsoft says it has "long been clear" that it collects voice data for product improvement. It has since updated its privacy policy for better clarity about this as well.

In an age of voice-activated devices and games using voice commands, it's good to at least be aware of how companies are using what they're picking up through the hot mics.

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Eric Van Allen

News Editor

Eric is a writer and Texan. He's a former contributor to sites including Compete, Polygon, Waypoint, and the Washington Post. He loves competitive games, live music, and travel.

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