Facebook Paid Contractors to Transcribe User's Audio on Messenger

by WF Will Administrator
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Facebook was Paying Outside Contractors to Transcribe User Audio Chats - Has Now Ceased the Practice

It's just emerged that Facebook has been using hundreds of contractors to transcribe clips of audio from users of its services. Bloomberg is reporting that some of the contractors have disclosed this information under anonymity - after becoming disturbed by the nature of the work.

The Bloomberg article states that the workers aren't informed how or where the audio was recorded and that the material is sometimes vulgar. It seems they're puzzled and slightly concerned why Facebook needs transcriptions.

The report seemed to hamper gains in Facebook stock, which was up 1.6% by 3.30 pm at $188.37 on Tuesday. Earlier increases were as high as 3.2%.

Facebook confirmed the fact it's been transcribing users' audio but said it has since ceased the practice, after scrutiny of other companies.
"Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,"
the company said Tuesday. Facebook says affected users chose the option to have their voice chats recorded and that the contractors' role is one of checking the effectiveness of artificial intelligence. They also state that all of the user audio is anonymized.

Amazon, Google and Apple recently admitted to human review of audio connected with Alexa, Alphabet and Siri requests, and got widely panned on grounds of privacy. Bloomberg reported in April that Amazon uses thousands of workers to listen to Alexa requests. They also suggest similar activity on the part of Google and Apple, with both those companies having since announced they've stopped the practice. Amazon has said they'll allow users to opt-out of human review.

Facebook has long denied it collects user audio to improve ads or help determine news feed content. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg addressed the subject directly in Congressional testimony.
"You're talking about this conspiracy theory that gets passed around that we listen to what's going on on your microphone and use that for ads," he told U.S. Senator Gary Peters in April. "We don't do that."
Facebook follow-up answers for Congress stated that microphones are only accessed if a user has given the app permission and a feature that requires audio is being used. The company's answers didn't address the subject of what happened to that audio after it had been recorded.

Bloomberg reports that some contractors are bothered that their work is unethical because Facebook doesn't tell users that outside parties may review their audio. We're told that one of the firms counting Facebook as a large and important client is California-based TaskUs Inc. Bloomberg sources claim that employees of TaskUs aren't permitted to mention publicly that they're working for Facebook, referring to them only by the code name "Prism."

Facebook's data-use policy was revised last year but makes zero mention of audio. It does state the company will collect "content, communications and other information you provide" when users "message or communicate with others."

Facebook mentions automatic processing of content and communications but not human beings screening the material. In a list of "types of third parties we share information with," Facebook doesn't speak of a transcription team, but vaguely refers to "vendors and service providers who support our business" by "analyzing how our products are used."

Facebook first gave Messenger users the option to have their audio transcribed in 2015.

What do you guys think Facebook is really using this information for? Is this another case of Cambridge Analytica?
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