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Microsoft's Smart Keyboard Service Facing Privacy Bug

SwiftKey, the keyboard-typing prediction service that Microsoft is in the process of acquiring, is facing scrutiny due to a potential privacy problem.

Microsoft announced that it was buying London-based SwiftKey for an undisclosed price in February. The service uses machine learning to predict what a mobile phone user will type, speeding up the typing process. It currently supports Android and iOS-based mobile devices.

A SwiftKey blog post on Friday explained that its customers had reported seeing "unexpected" behavior from the prediction service, such as "unfamiliar terms" and unexpected e-mail addresses showing up while typing.

The team claimed that most SwiftKey users weren't affected by the problem, but it nonetheless turned off the cloud sync service. SwiftKey is currently updating its applications "to remove email address predictions" and plans to issue an update on the progress. Apparently, it's still possible to use the SwiftKey service but the SwiftKey language model" can't be updated while the sync service is down.

Reports in a Reddit thread indicated that users were getting the e-mail addresses of strangers as they typed. They also got word suggestions in a foreign language, such as German or Spanish, the Reddit participants said.

SwiftKey claims that its service is used by "more than 300 million Android and iOS devices." It's not clear when Microsoft's acquisition will get finalized.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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