Microsoft Contractors Found Listening to Some Audio Calls When Skype Translator Feature is Active

Microsoft contractors are listening to conversations between users on Skype who use its translation feature, according to Motherboard. This is done only if users are performing a translation function in Skype and not during any other typical Skype voice or video call.


The information gathered includes Skype audio regarding intimate conversations between couples and more. The data also suggests that Microsoft contractors listen to voice commands spoken to Cortana, the company's smart voice assistant. The information seen by Microsoft contractors is anonymized and doesn't contain any user identifiable information.

These contractors (who mostly work from home) do manual translations of Skype audio conversations, sent by Microsoft along with a series of approximate translations generated by Skype's AI program. The contractor has to select the most accurate translation or provide their own, and they send the information back to Microsoft.

Microsoft warns users that it analyzes audio of translated calls in Skype to improve its services, but it does not mention that some of the analysis will be done by humans. The translation feature lets users perform real-time audio translations during phone and video calls, powered by artificial intelligence.
"The fact that I can even share some of this with you shows how lax things are in terms of protecting user data," a Microsoft contractor who provided the cache of files to Motherboard, said.

The contractor said, "I generally feel like that while we do not have access to user identifiable information, that if Microsoft users were aware that random people sitting at home in their pajamas who could be joking online with friends about the stuff they just heard that they wouldn't like that."
According to Microsoft, the company's terminology on its Skype translator feature and on Cortana are clear and straightforward in how it uses voice data to improve each service. "We strive to be transparent about our collection and use of voice data to ensure customers can make informed choices about when and how their voice data is used," the company said.

Microsoft also said that the audio data sent to contractors is through a secure online portal, and that it ensures any identifying information (like the user's name or device identification numbers) are removed. Despite all of this, Microsoft's terminology still doesn't mention that human workers might listen to your Skype translation conversations, or Cortana commands.

The Skype story from Motherboard emerges today following previous articles centered on human workers listening to Siri recordings at Apple and Google Assistant recordings at Google. Following these reports, Apple suspended its own program wherein contractors listened to anonymized Siri recordings for quality control purposes.

Tag: Skype

This article, "Microsoft Contractors Found Listening to Some Audio Calls When Skype Translator Feature is Active" first appeared on MacRumors.com

Discuss this article in our forums

Skype for iOS Now Lets You Share Your iPhone Screen With a Friend

Skype this week launched a new screen sharing feature on iOS and Android devices, allowing users to share their smartphone screens with any of their Skype friends. Microsoft said that this should be useful for helping family members figure out their new smartphone, shopping online with a friend, and more.


Skype on desktop already supports screen sharing, but this is a brand new addition for the iOS and Android apps and was previously in beta testing earlier this year. To find the feature on your iPhone, start a Skype call, tap the "..." menu at the bottom right of the screen, and choose to start sharing your screen.

The company has also redesigned the app to streamline video calls: users can simply tap to dismiss all call controls so they can see their friend or family member without any obstructions. To remove all UI from the call, they can double tap the screen, and then single tap again to bring everything back.

Skype for iPhone is available to download for free [Direct Link], and the new screen sharing feature is available on devices running iOS 12 and up.

Tag: Skype

This article, "Skype for iOS Now Lets You Share Your iPhone Screen With a Friend" first appeared on MacRumors.com

Discuss this article in our forums

Skype Testing Feature on iOS and Android That Lets You Share Your Screen With a Friend

Skype has begun testing a feature on the iOS and Android beta versions of the company's app, allowing users to share their screens during a call (via The Verge). According to Microsoft, this will let users share a PowerPoint presentation with coworkers, browse dating apps with friends, or go online shopping with a family member.


To see the new addition, you must be part of the Skype Insider program for beta testers, which you can sign up for on the company's website. To get to screen sharing, beta testers can tap on the ellipsis icon during a call and select "Share Screen." Skype didn't give any indication about a wider launch for the feature.

Earlier this month, Skype increased the number of users that can be on the same audio or video group call to 50 (previously the max was 25). This update put Skype ahead of Apple's FaceTime for the number of users that can take part in a group call, since FaceTime supports a maximum of 32 people.

Tag: Skype

This article, "Skype Testing Feature on iOS and Android That Lets You Share Your Screen With a Friend" first appeared on MacRumors.com

Discuss this article in our forums

Skype Doubles Group Call Limit to 50, Overtakes FaceTime’s Max of 32

Skype has increased the number of users that can be on the same audio or video group call to 50, up from the previous maximum of 25.


The bump up to 50 means bigger team chats and larger conference calls with speakers can take place, while full classes of students can participate in group calls.

The change also means Microsoft's Skype now beats Apple's FaceTime for the number of users that take part in a group call. FaceTime supports a maximum of 32 people.

In addition, Microsoft has made some changes to how larger Skype group calls start. Users now receive a notification to replace the default ringing sound, which is meant to allow every member of a group to receive a quick ping to join the call in a more unobtrusive way.

The audio and video buttons remain available to use in larger groups, so users can still mute their microphones or turn on/off their webcam.

Large group calling is available on the latest version of Skype for desktop and mobile.

Tag: Skype

This article, "Skype Doubles Group Call Limit to 50, Overtakes FaceTime's Max of 32" first appeared on MacRumors.com

Discuss this article in our forums

Skype Gains Background Blurring Feature

Skype is getting a new screen-blurring feature this week. Users of Microsoft's video and voice calling service can now choose to blur the background on video calls if the scene behind them is something they'd rather not share.

The idea behind the feature is to save the user's blushes because of the messy room they're skyping from, or to obscure a business plan on a whiteboard behind them, for instance.
Background blur in Skype and Teams uses artificial intelligence (AI)—trained in human form detection—to keep you in focus during your call. This technology is also trained to detect your hair, hands, and arms, making a call with background blur just as relaxed and easy as a regular video call.
Background blur in Skype is similar to background blur in Microsoft Teams, according to the software giant. The results are somewhat akin to the "bokeh" effect most commonly seen in Portrait photos on iPhone, but in this case in a live video stream.


The feature is rolling out on desktops, mobile, and web, and can be enabled in Skype's settings or by using the video call button.

Tag: Skype

This article, "Skype Gains Background Blurring Feature" first appeared on MacRumors.com

Discuss this article in our forums

Skype Calling Features Coming to Alexa Devices Later This Year

Microsoft has revealed that Skype is coming to Alexa devices. The partnership between Microsoft and Amazon means that owners of devices in Amazon's Echo range will soon be able to make outgoing Skype voice and video calls, accept incoming Skype calls, and also make SkypeOut calls to most phone numbers around the world.


Announcing the upcoming feature in a blog post, Microsoft said device owners will be able to say something like "Alexa, call Jimmy on Skype," or if Jimmy is calling you on Skype, they'll be able to say, "Alexa, answer."

This isn't the first time Amazon and Microsoft has seen fit to merge existing products and services. The two companies partnered on Alexa and Cortana integration last year.
"Since then, we've added Alexa integration on Xbox and are continuing to work together to bring the best of Skype and Alexa together to enable intelligent communications for our users," said Gaurav Sareen, corporate vice president for Microsoft. "We're excited to continue bringing the best of Microsoft and Amazon together."
Skype calling on Alexa will begin rolling out later this year.


Discuss this article in our forums

Skype Introduces Call Recording Feature for Mac and iOS

Microsoft today announced that it has added call recording functionality to the latest version of Skype available on Mac and iOS.

Skype says that the new call recording feature is cloud-based, with Skype informing every participant in a given call that a call is being recorded.


Call recording for video chats includes everyone's video and screens that are shared during the call, with the call available to be saved and shared for the next 30 days. There is no way to record the audio portion of a video chat without also recording the video.

On both mobile and desktop, call recording can be initiated by clicking or tapping on the "+" icon at the bottom of the screen and then selecting "Start recording." Once call recording has been initiated, participants will see a mobile banner letting them know that a recording is in progress.

Call recording is available in the current version of Skype, which can be downloaded from the Skype website on the Mac or the App Store on iOS. [Direct Link]


Discuss this article in our forums

Skype Redesign Ditches Snapchat-Like Highlights Feature to Focus on ‘Simplicity’

Microsoft is to simplify the user experience of its Skype mobile and desktop apps, with the aim of returning the platform's focus to core services like calling and messaging.

In announcing the decision in a blog post, Microsoft acknowledged that the Snapchat-style redesign it introduced last year "didn't resonate with a majority of users" and had "overcomplicated" the platform, and said it hoped the new changes would make the service faster to learn and easier to use.


As a result, the Highlights and Capture features are being removed from the mobile app, leaving options for Chats, Calls, and Contacts at the bottom of the interface. Microsoft says users can download any Highlights they have posted in Skype until September 30, 2018.

Meanwhile over on desktop, buttons for Chats, Calls, Contacts, and Notifications are being moved to the top left of the application window, which should make more sense for veteran Skype users. In addition, contacts are being "updated for simplicity" to make them easier to discover.


Visually, Microsoft says it has "toned down" the range of the gradients available in the light and dark themes, and it's also reintroducing the simplified Skype "Classic" blue theme, with subtle adjustments for contrast and readability.

Lastly, some decorative elements have been removed from the Skype interface to provide users with "a more elegant experience" that brings the focus back to content.

"This is only the beginning and you can expect many more updates over the next several months as we continue to simplify and improve the core experiences around calling, chat, and contacts," said Skype design director Peter Skillman. "While we have plenty of work left to do, we hope you find these changes simplify your experience and bring you closer to those who matter."


Discuss this article in our forums

Microsoft Plans to Keep Skype Classic Available ‘for Some Time’ Following User Backlash

Microsoft last month announced plans to shut down Skype 7, aka Skype Classic, on PCs and Macs in September, with the company encouraging customers to instead upgrade to the latest version of Skype, Skype 8.

Skype 8, first introduced last year, features a total design overhaul that has not been popular with some customers, which led some Skype users to be unhappy with Microsoft's announcement.


As of today, as pointed out by Windows blog Thurrott, Microsoft has changed its mind following user feedback. In a forum post, the Skype team says that support for Skype 7 will not end in September, with the end of life date extended to an unknown time.
UPDATE: Based on customer feedback, we are extending support for Skype 7 (Skype classic) for some time. Our customers can continue to use Skype classic until then.
It is not clear how long "some time" will be, but customers who prefer the design of Skype 7 can continue using that version of Skype instead of upgrading to Skype 8.

The Skype team also said that it is listening to customer comments and plans to introduce features customers have requested into Skype 8. Classic Skype for Mac can be downloaded directly from Microsoft, as can Skype 8.


Discuss this article in our forums

Microsoft Launches Skype 8.0 for Mac and Windows

Microsoft today announced the official launch of Skype 8.0, the latest version of Skype that replaces the previous version, Skype 7.0, now known as Skype classic. According to Microsoft, Skype 8.0 is its "most powerful, intuitive, and flexible" version of Skype to date.

Skype 8.0 includes free HD video and screensharing calls with up to 24 people, reaction options for messages in conversations and @mentions to get someone's attention in a group chat, a chat media gallery for viewing photos and links, customizable themes, a notification panel, and options to share photos, videos, and files over Skype that are up to 300MB in size.


Details and more information on the new features in Skype 8.0 are available on the Skype website, which is also where the new software can be downloaded.

In the future, Microsoft plans to add additional features that include read receipts, private conversations with end-to-end encryption, call recording, profile invites, and group links for initiating a call with multiple people. Skype 8.0 features are also rolling out on the iPad starting today.

Microsoft is encouraging all Skype users to update to the new 8.0 version of the software as earlier versions of Skype will stop working on September 1, 2018. Microsoft says it is discontinuing older versions of Skype in order to provide the best possible Skype experience with no quality or reliability issues.


Discuss this article in our forums