Microsoft confirms that people listen to portions of Skype calls and Cortana queries

What you need to know

  • Microsoft confirmed that humans may listen to Skype calls and Cortana queries.
  • Microsoft updated its privacy policies to explicitly state that humans may listen to audio recordings.
  • Users can delete their recordings using an online tool.

Microsoft confirms that human employees and contractors may listen to audio recordings from Skype calls and Cortana queries. Microsoft was recently in the news regarding humans listening in after a report from Vice illustrated that Microsoft contractors could listen to stored audio files. Leaked documents, screenshots, and audio recordings obtained by Vice included users' personal conversations, including full addresses and phone sex conversations. Now, Microsoft has updated its policy pages to explicitly state that humans may listen to audio files to improve its services (via Vice).

Microsoft contractors reportedly listen to Skype phone sex calls

Microsoft's privacy policies previously stated that recordings would be used to improve Skype Translator and Cortana, but they didn't explicitly state that humans may be the ones listening. Now, the policies have been updated, stating, "Our processing of personal data for these purposes includes both automated and manual (human) methods of processing."

The Skype Translator Privacy FAQ page now includes a section on vendors and employees as well.

This may include transcription of audio recordings by Microsoft employees and vendors, subject to procedures designed to protect users' privacy, including taking steps to de-identify data, requiring non-disclosure agreements with vendors and their employees, and requiring that vendors meet the high privacy standards set out in European law and elsewhere.

The Cortana and privacy page now has the exact same text as well.

If you'd like to delete audio recordings of yourself or delete several other types of information that Microsoft stores, you can use Microsoft's online tool. This tool isn't new, but may not be known by users who have data stored by Microsoft. You can use it to delete browsing history, audio recordings, and several other types of data stored by Microsoft.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at