Stop Eavesdropping!

blog cover image

Eavesdropping Warning Issued To Millions

Your Skype calls and Cortana voice commands are not as private as you might think. Contractors working for Microsoft are listening to private Skype conversations that use the translation service and to Cortana voice commands, according to an investigation by Motherboard. This represents a serious invasion of privacy and violation of user trust.

What is Eavesdropping?

Eavesdropping happens when a hacker secretly listens in on conversations or steals information being shared between people or devices. It's also called "sniffing" or "snooping." Hackers take advantage of connections that are not secured or encrypted to get private data.

An example is when someone uses public Wi-Fi to send private business information to a coworker. The data is out in the open, giving hackers a chance to catch it as it's being transmitted. Eavesdropping can be tricky to notice since it may not slow down devices or networks.

How Hackers Eavesdrop

Hackers use sneaky gadgets to eavesdrop. A simple example is hiding a tiny microphone in an office to listen in on conversations. They could put it under a chair, on a table, or hide it in everyday items like pens, bags, lamps, or bookshelves. Phone lines also give hackers ways to tap in and hear conversations. Computers and keyboards can be bugged to let hackers see private messages too.

Why Eavesdropping Matters

Eavesdropping puts important data at risk, like business secrets, private conversations, passwords, and more. Hackers can sell stolen data or demand money to give it back. Companies could lose business, money, and trust if hacked. People who get eavesdropped on could have identities stolen too.

Stopping Eavesdropping

Luckily, there are ways to lower chances of getting eavesdropped:

  • Encrypt data so it looks like gibberish to hackers
  • Educate staff on cybersecurity risks
  • Limit network access to only those who need it
  • Avoid questionable links and apps
  • Update software regularly
  • Control physical office access
  • Use devices that block hacking signals

Main Questions

1. Hackers eavesdrop to steal private data they can profit from or use to cause harm.

2. They use hidden microphones, tap phone lines, install spyware, exploit weaknesses, and more.

3. Types include listening devices (bugs), tapping phone/internet connections, software exploits.

The Revelation: Recordings of Private Conversations

The revelation came after a Microsoft contractor leaked internal documents, screenshots, and audio recordings of private conversations. The Skype recordings included intimate conversations between loved ones and discussions of sensitive relationship issues that users likely believed were private.

The Cortana recordings consisted of people's full home addresses given in voice commands and requests for pornography search results. This further demonstrates the deeply personal nature of the recordings contractors are listening to without user consent.

Widespread Practice Among Tech Firms

Microsoft is not the only major tech company found to be having human contractors listen to private conversations. In 2023, it was revealed that Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa conversations were also being reviewed externally. However, Apple and Google have since stopped this practice, at least temporarily. Microsoft continues to allow this major privacy violation.

Skype Translation Service: Fine Print vs User Expectations

The Skype translator service uses AI to provide near real-time translations during calls. While its website states Microsoft "may analyze" calls to improve the service, it does not clearly inform users that human contractors are listening to sensitive conversations.

Furthermore, its FAQ misleadingly suggests only machine analysis of sentences and transcripts. This fails to meet basic transparency and consent standards for such a privacy-invasive practice.

Clear GDPR Violations in Europe

According to ethical hacker John Opdenakker, reviewing users' private audio recordings constitutes "a very serious privacy infringement." He further states that failing to inform European users about this practice likely violates the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is a comprehensive data privacy regulation that went into effect in the European Union in 2018. Some key aspects of GDPR include:

  • Requiring companies to get explicit consent from users before collecting or processing their personal data. The consent has to be specific, informed, and freely given.
  • Requiring companies to be transparent about how they collect, use, share, and store personal data. They must clearly communicate their data practices to users.
  • Giving users the right to access, correct, delete, and port their personal data. Companies must provide users with their data if requested and allow them to transfer it.
  • Requiring companies to limit data collection only to what is necessary and implement appropriate security protections for personal data.
  • Threatening steep fines for violations - up to €20 million or 4% of a company's global revenue, whichever is higher.

So. in the context of this article, a general data protection regulation (GDPR) violation would mean that Microsoft failed to properly inform European users that human contractors may listen to their Skype conversation recordings, and get valid consent for processing this potentially sensitive personal data.

This would violate GDPR requirements around transparency, lawful data processing, and explicit consent. Microsoft could face major fines if regulators determine a GDPR breach occurred.

Independent security researcher Sean Wright argues that while manually reviewing some calls may help improve services, "it should be made explicit to users that their call may be recorded and listened to by humans." Failing to do so violates user trust and consent.

In summary, Microsoft contractors are listening to private Skype calls that use translation services and to Cortana voice recordings without properly informing users or obtaining meaningful consent.

This violates privacy and breaks user trust. Other tech firms have halted similar practices after public outcry, but Microsoft continues to allow this. Users should consider avoiding Skype and Cortana given the privacy risks involved. End-to-end encrypted alternatives like Signal offer one way to mitigate such risks.

iPhone is Stepping Up Again

Hi there! I wanted to give you a heads up about an important iPhone update that just went live. Apple is known for keeping its over 1 billion iPhone users' information safe and private. But there's been a weak spot that leaves some messages less secure. The good news is, Apple just pushed out an update to help fix this issue.

Let me explain more... iMessage is a great messaging app, especially now that Apple uses special encryption to keep messages safe even in the future. But here's the catch: If you text someone who doesn't have an iPhone, those protections go away.

Android Upgrades Coming Soon!

Later this year, Apple is going to make some positive changes when you text Android users. Those messages won't be stuck with old 1990's technology anymore! But Apple and Google still have some work to do before texts between iPhones and Androids have complete privacy coverage.

And Apple and WhatsApp likely won't be teaming up anytime soon to provide secured messaging between their apps.

I usually don’t recommend WhatsApp, but it is just an alternative way to communicate and so many people already have it. It keeps daily chats pretty safe, I hear. But there's now something even more secure you can use instead...

Signal Rollouts

Yesterday, the private messaging app Signal rolled out a big update with version 7.0! It introduced usernames, so you don't have to share your phone number anymore in order to chat. Your number stays totally hidden unless someone already has it saved. You can even make it so people can't search to find your Signal profile at all!

Conceal Your Phone Number

This new update means you can message new Signal contacts without ever revealing your phone number to them. That number is probably the key to a bunch of your other accounts, so keeping it more private is important. Don't worry - you can change your Signal username at any time.

Being able to hide your number is a huge feature that some other secure messengers like WhatsApp are still working on adding. If you care about privacy, Signal is the absolute best messaging app available right now for iPhone users.

Fraudulent Text Messaging

This update comes at an important time too. There was just a warning last week about fraudulent text messages surging globally. In 2023 alone, about 20 to 36 billion spam texts were sent! Regular SMS texts just aren't secure. So, splitting your conversations between WhatsApp and Signal is the safest bet.


And unfortunately, iMessage falls short on privacy when chatting cross-platform. In 2024, Android and iPhones should not rely on 1990's short message service (SMS) technology! Upgrading to rich communication services (RCS) is better but still won't be as secure as Signal and WhatsApp.

The only real drawback to Signal is it doesn't back up your message history anywhere other than your phone. So, if you lose your device, your past Signal texts could be gone for good. This risk goes down some since Signal has excellent options to use it across multiple devices like iPad. But it's still a headache if your main phone is lost.

The good news is Signal has mentioned adding more backup options like the cloud. That would help reassure people who care about privacy but also want a backup. The specifics aren't known yet though.

For now, Signal has focused on security even if it means avoiding handy cloud features. But adding an optional cloud backup plan could appeal to all types of users.

Bottom line - you'll still use regular iMessage to text other iPhone people. But for chatting beyond Apple devices, switch to Signal whenever you can rather than WhatsApp. This latest update makes it important for all iPhone owners to get on Signal!

I hope this breakdown has been helpful and gives you a friendly overview of the recent important privacy updates for iPhone users! Let me know if you have any other questions.

So, What Exactly is Microsoft Cortana?

Cortana is Microsoft's voice-controlled digital assistant, kind of like Siri or Alexa. When it launched back in 2014 for Windows Phone, Cortana could do helpful stuff like set reminders, show you the weather, open apps, and answer questions using web search.

The name comes from an AI character named Cortana in Microsoft's Halo video games. Pretty cool that they used the same voice actress for both!

Over time Microsoft has added some features and removed others. These days Cortana is included in Windows 10 and 11, but it's not as big a deal as it used to be. Microsoft has been focusing Cortana more on helping with work tasks than general digital assistant stuff.

How Can I Use Cortana?

You can activate Cortana by voice if you enable microphone access in settings. Just say "Hey Cortana!" You can also hit the Windows key + C or click the Cortana icon next to the search bar. A window pops up where you can type or speak your request.

You can try asking Cortana stuff like:

  • What's the weather?
  • Remind me to call Mom at 5 pm
  • Open browser
  • When's my next appointment?

Cortana Still Has Some Handy Features

Even though Microsoft has reduced Cortana's role, the assistant can still:

  • Understand natural language requests
  • Open programs and files on your desktop
  • Give more info on words and phrases in Microsoft Edge
  • Create reminders connected to your email
  • Manage calendar appointments
  • Provide accessibility options like reading emails aloud

Over time Cortana lost abilities like playing music, controlling smart home devices, and more. Bummer!

Do I Have to Use Cortana?

Nope! In Windows 11, Cortana is actually turned off by default now.

If you want to disable Cortana in Windows 10 or 11, just head to Settings > Privacy & Security > Microphone and toggle off Cortana's microphone access. You can also disable app permissions in Settings.

Cortana's Future Looks Hazy

Back in the day Cortana competed directly with Siri and Alexa. But Microsoft doesn't see it as a voice assistant anymore. Support has slowly dropped off, with the Cortana mobile app getting removed from app stores in 2021.

Now with Windows 11, Cortana doesn't even run at startup without the user re-enabling it. It's clearly being phased out in favor of focusing on other projects. Cortana still works if you activate it, but who knows how long that will last?

So, for now, Cortana is fading into the background. It had a good run, but Microsoft seems ready to move on to other things!

Final Take Home

As you can see, lots of things are going on in the digital, technological world. And it good to keep up with the modern trends whenever we can. We all use digital products in one way or another, and we all want to be safe out there on the information highway, right? Whether we use Skype, Microsoft, or Apple products our main goal is safety and accuracy. Their brand’s transparency is much-appreciated.

All success to you!


Create Your Free Wealthy Affiliate Account Today!
4-Steps to Success Class
One Profit Ready Website
Market Research & Analysis Tools
Millionaire Mentorship
Core “Business Start Up” Training

Recent Comments


You need to be very careful with Skype, I no longer use it, thankfully I had most of the payments taken from my account returned.
Microsoft is its own worst enemy when it comes to security, making it hard to cancel accounts among other things.

Hi there, Mike.

Who'd of thought Skyke of all things, would be harmful? Luckily, I've never used it. It only costs ...what...$3 to maintain. I'll unsubscribe ASAP.
Microsoft is a beast, for sure. They , somehow think they have us wrapped around their little finger. That ain't necessarily so.

Thanks for sharing your insights.

Yeah, just pay as you go Rachele, I had my debit card listed with them. 3 times they hit it and 3 debits each time. It took about 6 months to resolve that drama.
My bank, screenshots and Microsoft playing hardball.

Hi Michael.

Wow! What an experience. Nowadays we have to stay on top of things. Before you know it, somebody has their name on the pink slip of your car or even on the deeds of your house.

We have to Safelock any and everything in sight. The high-rollers in Beverly Hills are having to hire body guards and security guards around the clock with 9 Rottweilers on guard.

Did you hear about the storeowner in South Carolina?
A burglar invaded her store when she was about to close up shop for the night.

He never saw the light of day. She shot him at point blank. Then, she was "awarded" with a certificate by the South Carolina Police Department. Mission accomplished.

This was a little off topic, but the moral of the story is : don't take advantage of people. What goes around, comes around, right?

And like Dr. Laura Slessinger says: "Do the right thing."
Nice chatting!


Hi Rachele! I don`t think we will ever get away from the hackers. There will always be someone out there looking for their next victim. Everywhere you go in the UK there's a camera pointing at you. Have a great week ahead.

Hi there, Brian.

This voyeuristic tendency is prevalent everywhere. My assumption is that it has been around for a very long time. However, it is being detected more and more.

Every time we open a laptop, make a phone call, or go on a vacation in
the UK should we also have to have a camera detector?

Enjoy a pleasant weekend, my friend.

Crazy right? Thanks, Rachele. All the best.

Nothing is private anymore

Hi there, Kathie.

It's true, nothing is private anymore.
Have a pleasant Sunday!


Hi Rachele

Safeguarding our privacy and security can be very challenging these days.

AI is bound to make things better and worse.

Frank 🎸

Hi there, Frank.

You hit the nail on the head, and here we are in 2024 and still have less privacy and security than ever before. I saw an article where cameras are being found in hotel pillows, bathroom showers and various non-conspicuous places. What?

I hear that these photos are being sold on the black market. Desperate times call for desperate measures, I guess. It's a good thing that these bad actors are oftentimes jailed for these sleazy shenanigans, right?

Looks like the porn industry is losing its luster, I guess. Looks like we have to carry hidden camera detectors when we travel. My niece has traveled in a group for years. I can see why; you know what I mean?

There has to be a way to curve some of this voyeuristic behaviors. AI probably makes it easier to peak, since AI is at its peak (no pun intended).

This reminds me of a neighbor that everyone called "Mamaw" back in the day when I lived in Buena Park (not far from Knott's Berry Farm).

When anything she disliked went down, she'd say "these people need the holy ghost." So, yeah, they need the holy ghost, (lol). She'd say... "they are going straight to hell." She was quite a character. But we all loved her. She claimed that she had 14 kids, but I had no way of proving it. She lived alone.

Happy Sunday!

Hi Rachele

Haha, Mamaw sounds like quite a character! 😎

Happy Sunday!
Frank 🤘🎸

Hi there, Frank.

Mamaw was a character, indeed. We all need the holy ghost with her. This was her signature saying that we got used to.

Nice chatting, my friend.

Seriously good to know, tech assumes too much power and will sell you out for a loaf of bread if they think they can sell 10,000 loaves. The only thing you can trust less than a tech CEO is that guy/gal from the government offering you a little security for less liberty.

Hi there, Andy.

Your perspective on technology is spot on. We the people, the consumers, are their bread, butter and bacon strips (lol). It's a little like some of the family members, you can't live with 'em and can't live without them.


See more comments

Create Your Free Wealthy Affiliate Account Today!
4-Steps to Success Class
One Profit Ready Website
Market Research & Analysis Tools
Millionaire Mentorship
Core “Business Start Up” Training