back to article Friends, it's fine. Don't worry about randomers listening to your Skype convos. Microsoft has tweaked an FAQ a bit

Microsoft has responded to the furore over its use of humans to listen in on Skype and Cortana recordings by tweaking its privacy policy a bit. The move will help users who managed to miss the hand-wringing of recent days and weeks, but doesn't change anything with regard to what the company is actually doing. To recap, if …

  1. Spasticus Autisticus
    Happy

    Feed all these voice things some Professor Stanley Unwin.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      No, deep folly childers.

      Fundamoulds to understab severaloaders voicliers is earbold.

  2. Julz Bronze badge

    Old Codger

    Is it only me that thinks that, unless you are talking face to face with someone, on a walk, on a route you normally don't use, with loads of background noise, you shouldn't have any real expectation that somebody else might not be listening in. Even then, given that you both haven't changed all you clothes, it still likely to be compromised, but probably only by state actors, in which case all bets are off anyway.

    Now I know that this is different in scale, in the fact that it's potentially in your house and that it is being sold as being a private service, however that can be, given it's running over public circuits and being processed god knows where. But, in the days of yore, I'm sure The Post Office, also insisted that it's operators didn't listen in and that no amount of bullying from their paymasters, could persuade them to tap a line...

    Privacy has always been an illusion.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: Old Codger

      > you shouldn't have any real expectation that somebody else might not be listening in.

      I don't think you should have any expectation, no, but I also don't think that means you forgoe the right to complain loudly when someone is found to be listening in, particularly when it seems to be happening routinely.

      In other words, you should conduct yourself as though someone were listening in, but raise holy fucking hell when you catch them doing so.

      The ability to listen in is a position of power, and it's the complaints and repurcussions that are used to dissuade people from misusing that power. Every time you quietly accept it, you're one step closer to getting adverts for dildos because your old lady didn't sound too in to your dirty phone call.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Old Codger

        Same as network security:

        Encrypt everything.

        But don't let people sniff the entire network (or BGP route it through their country) anyway.

        Google learned that lesson the hard way with their intra-data-centre communications being sniffed by certain agencies.

        Privacy is not about "did someone find it out". That's secrecy.

        Privacy is about "did someone actually have the right to be listening indiscriminately to everything".

    2. Just Enough
      Big Brother

      Re: Old Codger

      Yes, it is just you. Most people have conversations that aren't of much interest to state actors. Your life may be different, but most conversations I have in a closed room are in the real expectation that they probably aren't been listened to. I almost never make arrangements to meet someone in a busy park, with a code word and background noise for cover. I've never, ever changed clothes to sweep them for bugging devices.

      Is it your career in international espionage that makes you think differently?

    3. Drew Scriver

      Re: Old Codger

      There's a difference between having no reasonable expectation of privacy and being reasonably sure that you can (and will) be recorded.

      Remember Google Glasses? We used to kick the early adopters out of our cubicles and meetings. Now you have to worry about having any kind of private conversation by everyday devices.

      Visit your doctor, therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist? Better turn off your phone and make sure they do the same - and leave that 'smart' watch outside.

      Invite people over for dinner? Make sure they leave their devices in the "privacy box" at the front door or simply don't have any meaningful conversations.

      Visit other people? Look around for Echo Dots, Google Home Device, and all the others. And don't forget to check the light bulbs.

      Saddest thing is that people tend to get upset if you're concerned about their spy gadgets.

      I've said it before: smart is singular. Either the device is smart, or you. Not both. The choice is yours.

    4. MrBanana
      Big Brother

      Re: Old Codger

      For young codgers, I can recommend: The Conversation. A film released in 1974, but full of today's surveillance paranoia.

      1. PhilBuk

        Re: Old Codger

        Just don't flush the toilet.

        Phil.

      2. TimMaher Bronze badge
        Pint

        Re: Old Codger

        Damn!

        Beat me to it.

        What a great film.

        Got you crate of beer for that one Red Team.

  3. Artem S Tashkinov

    Slight offtopic, but why "an" FAQ? I always pronounced this word as the f-word, so it could be just a FAQ.

    1. Excellentsword (Written by Reg staff)

      An eff-ey-cue, ya weirdo.

      1. Fading Silver badge
        Pint

        Whilst...

        An eff-in-cue is what frequently happens when you are desparate for a swift lunchtime beer......

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        fuck you too!

        :)

      3. Pier Reviewer

        Came to post the same thing. And complain - where’s my “what the FAQ?!” headline? Guess that explains it.

      4. jake Silver badge

        There is a FAQ on that ...

        http://www.faqs.org/faqs/faqs/about-faqs/

  4. Franco Silver badge

    More than 3 people talk to Cortana, in fact more than 3 just in my office. Admittedly this is just whilst building laptops via Autopilot, and the comment every time is "shut up you harridan" or something rather less polite.

    I don't get the obsession with these voice assistants though, I was given an Echo Dot and really only use it as a timer in the kitchen or sometimes for music, and the dozy bint always suggests music I'd have to pay for, rather than have already bought, so spends most of her time switched off.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Left an install to run overnight.

      I got the fright of my life wondering who this woman was who broke into my house and was asking how I was doing and if I wanted to turn the lights on... or something like that, I was asleep and a little groggy.

      When I got downstairs, the laptop was talking... and I quickly muted it and went back to sleep.

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Alert

    Frog boiling

    Most people understand that telephone services and VoIP services which have got extremely popular can be intercepted by court order or the intelligence services, but also having outsourced low-wage gnomes listening in to your VoIP calls because the provider's speech recognition software is having problems parsing your call would have been unthinkable five years ago... Or at least I think it would have been.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Encryption

    Didn't Skype used to have end to end encryption to stop man in the middle stuff like this? It's a bit worrying that suddenly all that data is available. Or does the data come from the end users computer, in which case surely that would count as unlawful surveillance? Considering NOBODY was aware this was happening the Ts & Cs are irrelevant, people weren't aware they were being surveilled in their own homes.

    1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: Encryption

      Skype did have end-to-end encryption. It also used to connect directly between nodes, instead of sending everything through a mother ship where it can be easily intercepted.

      Then Microsoft bought it.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Encryption

        "Then Microsoft bought it."

        And anybody with any clues at all promptly stopped using it.

  7. LDS Silver badge

    As they can collect sensitive data without the specific permission....

    ... I still fail how could it stands GDPR scrutiny.

    Sensitive data are:

    "The following personal data is considered ‘sensitive’ and is subject to specific processing conditions:

    personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs;

    trade-union membership;

    genetic data, biometric data processed solely to identify a human being;

    health-related data;

    data concerning a person’s sex life or sexual orientation."

    All data that can be collected while eavesdropping conversations, and could be very hard to anonymize.

    MS attempts to "improve customer experience" doesn't meet the "specific processing conditions" required. See for example https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/lawful-basis-for-processing/special-category-data/

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Schadenfreunde

    the IDIOTS who bought these gadgets, and didn't stop for a second to consider implications, deserve all they got. Including being spied on.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: Schadenfreunde

      What gadgets? This applies to people making Skype calls as much as it does someone talking to Cortana.

      Ever made a Skype call? Then by your measure you're as much an idiot as the majority of people who'd be affected by this. Though they'd probably have managed to finish reading the headline

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Schadenfreunde

        "This applies to people making Skype calls as much as it does someone talking to Cortana."

        Yes. Your point?

        "Ever made a Skype call?"

        Once or twice. In the early days, before Redmond bought it. When it did peer to peer, and offered end to end encryption. Now? I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole, not even if encouraged to do so by a very large czech ...

        1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

          Re: Schadenfreunde

          > Yes. Your point?

          The OP said the idiots who bought "these gadgets" deserved it.

          Given that this affects Skype, the gadgets that Skype runs on includes generic laptops, phones, desktops etc.

          So, my point, is, the OP is a complete prat incapable of parsing one of the Reg's simpler headlines.

  9. Barrie Shepherd

    How long before AI 'translation' morphs into transcription and textual copies of conversations get sent off to 5 eyes? I suspect it's far easier for text to be analysed at high speed than audio.

    I thought Sype was supposed to be encrypted anyway so how are they listening in? Or is it that they are conveniently in the middle? Now we know why Skype peer to peer had to be killed.

    (puts tin-foil hat back on)

    1. jake Silver badge

      "How long before AI 'translation' morphs into transcription and textual copies of conversations get sent off to 5 eyes?"

      Probably several/many years ago.

      Easy fix: Don't use such so-called "services".

  10. J J Carter Silver badge
    Trollface

    Poor form

    Alexa say "Boris Johnson carrots one hundred" in Welsh

  11. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    ...spurtings from CEO Nadella extolling Microsoft's "six key privacy principles" – three of which are "control", "security" and "transparency"

    The other three are also "control."

    1. JassMan Silver badge

      @fidodogbreath

      Unfortunately the MS definitions of those principles appear to be:

      Make sure MS Control everything the user does

      Make Security as leaky as a colander

      Make Transparency as clear as mud

      1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

        Re: @fidodogbreath

        @JassMan: Yep, that pretty much sums it up.

    2. eldakka Silver badge
  12. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    Correction

    the average user is unlikely to be aware that Microsoft's goons could be listening in to sexy Skype chats or fruitless yelling at Cortana. And that user does not currently have a way to easily opt out.

    1. Windows menu > Settings > Cortana > Talk to Cortana

    2. Turn off everything that can be turned off.

    3. Cortana > Permissions & History > Manage the information Cortana can see from this device

    4. Turn off everything that can be turned off.

    5. Settings > Apps > Apps & Features > left-click Skype > Uninstall.

    6. Restart, just to be sure.

    Lots of clicks, but it should get the job done. At least, until the next "feature update" puts everything back to Full Slurp.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Correction

      "Lots of clicks, but it should get the job done."

      Easier answer: Get rid of Cortana entirely.

  13. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    For Courts of Future Law to Decide and Not Deride? Yeah. Of Course whenever on a True Course

    'Automated and manual' data processing – so humans, yeah?

    Any advance on them being further designated and excused as Virtual Machines?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: For Courts of Future Law to Decide and Not Deride? Yeah. Of Course whenever on a True Course

      No, amfM, they have already admitted that they are using actual real live human beings, not virtual machines.

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