Microsoft were listening to your Kinect and Cortana conversations after all

A disturbing report has revealed that Microsoft contractors have been listening to accidentally recorded Xbox One conversations.

There were a lot of reasons gamers ended up hating Kinect, including the unreliable motion controls and the fact that the Xbox One version jacked up the price of the console while decreasing its power.

But there was also concern that Microsoft were secretly listening in on your conversations, or at least recording them for analysis – and now it’s been revealed that’s exactly what was happening, albeit unintentionally.

A report by website Motherboard reveals that contractors were employed to listen to audio recordings made via the Xbox One, including not just generic voice commands but all the other random stuff people would say and which would be accidentally picked up.

‘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,’ said a contractor.

And yet when the concerns were first raised at the launch of the Xbox One in 2013, Microsoft claimed that, ‘When Xbox One is on and you’re simply having a conversation in your living room, your conversation is not being recorded or uploaded’.

Despite these new revelations, Microsoft still insists that they always ask for customer permission before collecting voice data and that they, ‘take steps to de-identify voice snippets being reviewed to protect people’s privacy’.

Either way, they’ve now stopped listening to audio recordings entirely and as a result of Motherboard’s investigation have changed their privacy policy.

Microsoft stopped including Kinect with every Xbox One console in 2014 and it became impossible to use it with newer models without a special adapter – which has now been discontinued.

Cortana, meanwhile, was removed from Xbox One only last month, although if you really want to use voice commands with the console you can still use the Cortana smartphone app.

Obviously, these concerns are not limited to consoles, with Amazon and Google’s assistants also having been caught up in similar controversies.

Motherboard’s sources also suggest that contractors were listening to some Skype conversations as well, which Microsoft also owns.

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