Microsoft contractors listened to Xbox audio recordings of children in their homes, to improve voice command

Contractors who worked for Microsoft say that in the course of their work, they listened to Xbox users' voice recordings, including recordings that were invoked by children accidentally, to improve Microsoft's techFind voice command technology.

That's right.

Many of the unintentionally made audio recordings were of children.

Being listened to by adult strangers outside of the home.

Reports Joseph Cox at VICE:

Contractors working for Microsoft have listened to audio of Xbox users speaking in their homes in order to improve the console’s voice command features, Motherboard has learned. The audio was supposed to be captured following a voice command like “Xbox” or “Hey Cortana,” but contractors said that recordings were sometimes triggered and recorded by mistake.

The news is the latest in a string of revelations that show contractors working on behalf of Microsoft listen to audio captured by several of its products. Motherboard previously reported that human contractors were listening to some Skype calls as well as audio recorded by Cortana, Microsoft’s Siri-like virtual assistant.

"Xbox commands came up first as a bit of an outlier and then became about half of what we did before becoming most of what we did," one former contractor who worked on behalf of Microsoft told Motherboard. Motherboard granted multiple sources in this story anonymity as they had signed non-disclosure agreements.

The former contractor said they worked on Xbox audio data from 2014 to 2015, before Cortana was implemented into the console in 2016. When it launched in November 2013, the Xbox One had the capability to be controlled via voice commands with the Kinect system.

Microsoft Contractors Listened to Xbox Owners in Their Homes

[photos of kid playing Xbox, SHUTTERSTOCK]

My favorite vegetable peeler

I've owned quite a few vegetable peelers, and the Kuhn Rikon model (3 for $9.99 on Amazon) is my favorite. The blade is very sharp and it easily skins sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and even jicama. They are really cheap, too. Buy a 3-pack and share them with your friends. Every time they accidentally cut their finger using it, they'll think of you.

Plot of land listed for $1bn, sells for $100k

What just happened? asks the Los Angeles Times, concerning the sale of "the Mountain", a large undeveloped plot of land overlooking Los Angeles that was listed for $1bn but nabbed at auction for only $100k, despite the seller needing to cover a $200m loan.

The auction was over almost as soon as it began. The attorney overseeing the sale, David Bark of First American Title, asked if anyone was interested in being prequalified to bid. No one stepped forward, presumably because a buyer would be on the hook for the outstanding debt.

He then announced that the Hughes estate, which forced the auction, had placed a $100,000 credit bid on the property, which means the money comes from the debt they’re owed instead of cash.

The tldr: the auction amounts to a legal maneuver that passes the property to the seller's original lender, owed the $200m, after having having already turned down offers in the $150m+ range.

United passengers say they were asked to clean seats covered in fresh vomit

Sam Trail says he and his wife boarded a United Airlines plane only to discover that their seats had been vomited on by a previous passenger. They say that when they alerted a crew member, they were given a wad of paper towels and warned that they would be blamed for a departure delay if they insisted on having the seats cleaned by a cleaning crew.

From Click2Houston:

Sam Trail, of Houston, said he and his wife were forced to sit in a seat with fresh vomit on the back, of the seat in front of them, the floor and the seat itself.

"The seat in front of me was covered with vomit," Trail said. "They kept boarding the people and so we couldn't move. We basically had our luggage in our laps trying to avoid contact with the vomit."

Eventually a person came on board with a spray bottle and paper towels and cleaned up some of the vomit.

Image: Click2Houston

Anthropodermic bibliopegy: the grotesque history of books bound in human skin

On the Under the Knife show, Dr Lindsey Fitzharris elucidates the weird history of "anthropodermic bibliopegy," the weird practice of binding books in human skin, including the doctor who bound case histories in the skins of his dead patients, and the murderer who asked to have his biography bound in his skin and presented to the lawman who caught him after his execution. Other common ways to procure human skins for the practice included grave-robbing (Andrea wrote about the Burke and Hare editions back in 2016). (Thanks, Allen)

Mexico City judge gives two people permission to enjoy recreational cocaine with impunity

Mexico City judge Víctor Octavio Luna Escobedo gave two people permission to use  500 milligrams of cocaine per day, saying the drug conveys benefits such as "tension relief, the intensification of perceptions and the desire [to have] new personal and spiritual experiences." According to Newsweek, the two happy cokeheads musn't sniff the drug while "working, driving or operating heavy machinery  ... they are also not allowed to take the drug in public, in the presence of children, or encourage others to consume it."

Image: Pixabay. Public domain

Couple crashes plane in ocean and manages to take video while waiting for rescue

A couple was flying a small plane at 6pm last night when they lost power and crashed near Northern California's Half Moon Bay. They skidded across water and amazingly escaped without injuries. They even managed to take some video of themselves while waiting for their rescue helicopter.

According to NBC:

The plane was one of two reported to be flying together in the area, and the pilot of the second plane reported the crash to air traffic control....

NBC Bay Area reported that the pilot, whom it identified as David Lesh, was able to skip the plane along the surface of the water during the incident. A friend was in the other plane, according to the station.

Image: YouTube

DoorDash "still stealing tips," say workers

A month after DoorDash promised to give workers the tips that customers leave for them, the company is still withholding them, reports Vox.

At the time, CEO Tony Xu announced in a series of tweets that DoorDash would institute a new model to ensure workers’ earnings would “increase by the exact amount a customer tips on every order.” Xu promised to provide “specific details in the coming days.” The next day, Xu sent out a note to DoorDash workers, broadly outlining changes and letting them know “what to expect in the days ahead.”

But 27 days later, current DoorDash workers tell Recode that the company’s pay and tipping policies have stayed the same. The company has not made any public statements about its worker pay and how it plans to institute the changes, nor has it offered a specific date when it will fulfill its promise.

Image of dollar bill: Public Domain, Link

The town of Dildo does not want to be used in sex toy ads

Last week, Jimmy Kimmel joked about running for mayor of Dildo, a tiny unincorporated town in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and even built a Hollywood-style sign on a nearby hill. Then, sex toy company Our Pleasure ran a promotional video featuring their dildos in front of Dildo landmarks. Enough is enough, say residents. Townspeople have started a petition urging Our Pleasure to cease and desist. From UPI:

"If they had just casually mentioned the name on their site and didn't go to that extreme, we wouldn't have had a problem, but they went too far with this," (Dildo local service district committee member Andrew Pretty) said. "That's not what the town is about at all."

Pretty said some residents have tried reaching out to Our Pleasure, but their concerns were dismissed. He said people are particularly upset that the company was taking photos of sex toys outdoors in daylight hours...

Cathy Daniels, owner of Our Pleasure, said the company was careful to make sure no one was around when the photos were taken.

"In our industry, we're very sex-positive. But still, it's still a very taboo topic to talk about it," she said. "So, for us, for Dildo to be [in the media], although they were talking about the community, they were also talking about the object."

Debullshitifying Trump's get-out-of-jail statement for Medicaid scammer Ted Suhl

Ted Suhl was serving his third year of a seven-year sentence for bribery and Medicaid fraud when Trump commuted his sentence and sprung him, at the request of Mike Huckabee; the White House released a statement explaining Trump's reasoning for the commutation, and, as Propublica documents, it is full of "half-truths and omissions" about Trump's new grifter pal. Propublica did the hard work of annotating the Trump statement to remove the bullshit and tell the true tale.

Next 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9