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SwiftKey Reacts to Reported Privacy Issues

A keyboard-typing prediction service that Microsoft is in the process of buying has responded to problems reported by users.

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

A SwiftKey blog post explained on Friday that its customers had reported seeing "unexpected" behavior from the prediction service last week. They saw "unfamiliar terms" and unexpected e-mail addresses when 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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