Published: Sat, August 17, 2019
IT | By Jonathon Greene

Facebook Employees Were Listening to Messenger Voice Recordings

Facebook Employees Were Listening to Messenger Voice Recordings

Facebook is the latest company to admit to paying contractors to listen to audio recordings of its services users, with hundreds of outside workers transcribing the clips, according to Bloomberg. They were also not provided an explanation as to why they were doing the transcribing, which made them "feel their work is unethical".

The AI voice assistants offered by Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple have attracted the attention of the European Union regulators over the last few weeks. Yesterday, we reported saying that the company was using human transcribers for the voice-to-text features without making any clear mention of such a fact anywhere in the privacy policy.

As per Facebook, they did this to improve their product and services that includes artificial intelligence.

Last week, a federal appeals court rejected Facebook's effort to undo a class action lawsuit claiming that it illegally collected and stored biometric data for millions of users without their consent. "We paused human review of audio more than a week ago", Facebook told Bloomberg.

Facebook payed third-party contractors to listed to anonymized audio messages.

Major tech companies have received flak for fathering audio snippets from devices and exposing those clips to actual humans for review, a practice that critics regard as an invasion of privacy. No corporation tells you this explicitly because otherwise people, politicians, and regulators would completely freak out if they found out just how much private information is inspected not just by code but by human handlers, too.

However, Peters pointed out that the company did not, in follow-up responses, "articulate what you do with the audio accessed under those circumstances, the extent of Facebook's use of this practice or the reasons for the discrepancy in your testimony on this issue during the hearing".

Facebook says it has since stopped this human review process. Machines are getting better at the task but sometimes still struggle with the unfamiliar. According to the company, users unwilling to have their voice chats listened to could have easily denied permission by going into the Settings menu of their Messenger app.

When asked whether it would still pursue the matter if it turned out only to be a US-focused activity, the spokeswoman said that it was awaiting further clarification from Facebook on this point.

In Facebook's case, the company acknowledged Tuesday that it paused the practice earlier this month after those other companies started to attract scrutiny over basically the same thing.

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