Microsoft’s privacy issues expands to Xbox users according to contractors

Kareem Anderson

Following its recent admission that it hired contractors to listen to audio parsed through Skype and Cortana services, Microsoft is now being forced to concede that it also employed contractors to do a similar job for its Xbox gaming console.

Microsoft hasn’t officially addressed the claims from former Xbox contractors tasked with listening to audio snippets, however, the company has been admitting to similar instances for its other services.

In line with its contractor work with Cortana and Skype, employees were assigned to listen in on conversations prompted by key phrases to help improve the search and command results for Xbox users.

“We’ve long been clear that we collect voice data to improve voice-enabled services and that this data is sometimes reviewed by vendors,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Motherboard in a statement.

In an interview with Motherboard, several contractors working in the Xbox division have come forward to share their stories during their time listening to voice commands via the Kinect attachment that was bundled early on in the Xbox One’s lifecycle.

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 added. “‘Xbox give me all the games for free’ or ‘Xbox download [newest Minecraft skins pack]’ or whatever,” they added.

Despite replacing the generic Kinect-powered Xbox commands with its new cross-platform digital assistant, contractors eventually found themselves with less and less to do.

“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,” the current contractor said.

Microsoft is rumored to be removing Cortana functionality from the Xbox One in the near future, which should appease some staunch privacy advocates, and as if that were not enough, the company is also offering users a place to find and delete all audio captured through their services.