Surprise! Microsoft Admits That People Are Listening In on Your Cortana and Skype Conversations

mabe123/iStock via Getty Images
mabe123/iStock via Getty Images

In a turn of events that, at this point, probably shocks no one, Microsoft has confessed that human contractors have been listening in on some people's private conversations via Skype and Cortana.

Vice first broke the news on the privacy breach earlier this month, after a contractor passed along documents, screenshots, and actual audio files of some conversations. “The fact that I can even share some of this with you shows how lax things are in terms of protecting user data,” the contractor, whose name was withheld (for obvious reasons), told Motherboard. Unlike Apple’s recent Siri snafu, these conversations didn’t include potential criminal activity, but they did catch intimate exchanges about weight loss, love, and relationship problems.

Also unlike Apple: Microsoft is not suspending its practices. Instead, the tech monolith has updated its privacy policy to clarify that humans might, in fact, be eavesdropping on you.

“We realized, based on questions raised recently, that we could do a better job of clarifying that humans sometimes review this content,” a Microsoft representative told Vice. Before, the Skype website had mentioned that your content could be analyzed in order to improve the technology, but it never explicitly stated that humans would be listening to it.

Microsoft only records Skype conversations that use its translation features, in order to “help the translation and speech technology learn and grow,” according to the Skype FAQ section. If you’re not using translation features, your sweet nothings are reportedly as private as you want them to be. The updated FAQ section also now states that “Microsoft employees and vendors” may be transcribing the translated audio, and the procedures are “designed to protect users’ privacy, including taking steps to de-identify data, requiring non-disclosure agreements with vendors and their employees,” and more.

But Cortana’s data gathering isn’t limited to translation. According to its support page, Microsoft can collect your voice data literally any time you “use your voice to say something to Cortana or invoke skills.” If that worries you, we recommend spending some time adjusting the settings on your Microsoft Privacy Dashboard.

[h/t Vice]

Google Is Celebrating Friends's 25th Anniversary With Hilarious Easter Eggs

Getty Images
Getty Images

On September 22, the more-popular-than-ever show Friends turns 25 years old, and this pop culture milestone has generated all kinds of celebrations, like the release of Central Perk coffee, a LEGO set, a “How You Doin’?” T-shirt, a jewelry collection, a theatrical Friends marathon, and more. To properly prepare for the anniversary, you’ll probably want to head to Google to learn more about the show, right? Well, now the search engine giant is even getting in on the fun with some Friends-inspired Easter eggs. 

All you need to do is either Google your favorite character’s full name or the first name followed by “Friends.” Not to give too much away—it really is a nice surprise—but type in “Joey Tribbiani.” A pizza icon will appear under the Knowledge Panel (located beneath the picture) on the right side of the screen. Click on the pizza to see an animation, followed by one of Joey's most recognizable (and relatable) lines. To annoy coworkers, friends, family members, and/or anyone else in earshot, just keep clicking on the icon. 

But the best Easter egg pops up when you Google “Friends glossary.” At the top of the page, you'll get funny definitions for words like pivot, woopah, unagi, unfloopy, and plenty of other running jokes from the show. Between the glossary and the Easter eggs, you won’t be able to get “Smelly Cat” out of your head, but you'll at least wind up with a unique trifle recipe.

PopSockets Is Rolling Out a Line of Drink Holders

PopSockets
PopSockets

PopSockets have become something of a fidgeting consumer’s dream. The cute and accordion-esque accessory knob that attaches to phones allows for an improved grip and gives people something to noodle with. Now, the company is hoping you’ll recognize the value in having a PopSockets appliance for your hot and cold drinks.

The PopThirst Cup Sleeve and the PopThirst Can Holder resemble insulated sleeves you can purchase for beverages. But these sleeves have a socket for a PopGrip attachment, which you can thread between your fingers to make for a more secure grip. This might be beneficial in the car, where bumpy roads can prompt more spills.

A PopSockets PopThirst cup sleeve is pictured
PopSockets

Holding a drink with the PopGrip acting as a handle seems a little more precarious. Most people will not do this, but if they do, you will probably find the consequences on Instagram.

Since going on sale in 2014, PopSockets has become a phone accessory giant, moving 100 million units in 2018.

The PopThirst Cup Sleeve and Can Holder are both one-size-fits-all and retail for $15 each.

[h/t The Verge]

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