Microsoft has given customers more control over whether their voice data is used to improve products and now, people using Cortana will be able to decide whether or not the audio recordings can be used by the tech giant to improve its speech recognition algorithms.
Microsoft said that the new updates let customers decide if people can listen to recordings of what they said while speaking to Microsoft products and services that use speech recognition technology.
If customers choose to opt in, people may review these voice clips to improve the performance of Microsoft’s artificial intelligence systems across a diversity of people, speaking styles, accents, dialects and acoustic environments.
“The goal is to make Microsoft’s speech recognition technologies more inclusive by making them easier and more natural to interact with,” the company said.
Customers who do not choose to contribute their voice clips for review by people will still be able to use all of Microsoft’s voice-enabled products and services.
Microsoft said it removes certain personal information from voice clips as they are processed in the Cloud, including Microsoft account identifiers and strings of letters or numbers that could be telephone numbers, Social Security numbers and email addresses.
The new settings for voice clips mean that customers must actively choose to allow people to listen to the recordings of what they said.
If they do, Microsoft employees and people contracted to work for Microsoft may listen to these voice clips and manually transcribe what they hear as part of a process the company uses to improve AI systems.
“Their transcription is what we consider our ground truth of what was actually spoken inside that audio clip. We use that as a basis for comparison to identify where our AI needs improvement,” said Neeta Saran, a senior attorney at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington.
The more transcripts Microsoft has of how real people talk from contributed voice clips, the better these AI systems will perform.
Microsoft said it does not use any human reviewers to listen to audio data collected from speech recognition features built into enterprise offerings.
On October 30 last year, Microsoft stopped storing voice clips processed by its speech recognition technologies.
Over the next few months, the company is rolling out the new settings for voice clips across products including Microsoft Translator, SwiftKey, Windows, Cortana, HoloLens, Mixed Reality and Skype voice translation.