Facebook Paid Contractors to Transcribe User Audio Files

Facebook has been collecting some voice chats on Messenger and paying contractors to listen to and transcribe them, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday after hearing from rattled contractors who thought that lack of user notification was unethical. "We paused human review of audio more than a week ago", Facebook told Bloomberg.

That might very well have been a potential scene at Facebook HQ as the social network has 'fessed up to Bloomberg that is has to kill off its practice of transcribing voice chats made through the Messenger service. The contractors employed by Facebook were transcribing the audio in order to improve the company's message-interpreting artificial intelligence.

The company worked with Facebook as a client under the codename "Prism" and would also review content believed to be in potential violation of Facebook policies. Just last week, Apple suspended a similar program that involved outside contractors listening to Siri audio recordings.

Just recently, Facebook and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement regarding some shady privacy practices, and now we learn that there is much more to the story.

Facebook's support page reveals only one person in a Messenger conversation had to consent to transcription, and then any audio in the chat could be translated. The objective of the human transcription was to check the job done by Facebook's artificial intelligence transcription service.

Oil rises on European inventories drop and expected OPEC cuts
That came after a surprise increase in USA stockpiles, the first gain in eight weeks, helped push down prices on Wednesday. OPEC's room for maneuver may also be constrained by the USA oil industry.

The agency's statement says it also had "ongoing engagement with Google, Apple and Microsoft" over the issue, though Amazon wasn't mentioned.

This is due to the fact that Facebook never informed users that third parties would be reviewing their audio. The voice-to-text feature, which lets people speak their messages rather than type them, has been around since 2015, though users must opt-in to use it.

"I am concerned that your previous testimony before Congress appears to have been, at best, incomplete", Peters said in a letter sent Thursday to the Facebook chief executive officer that requested more information about the report. In 2016, Facebook went on the record to state that it does "not use your phone's microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed".

Facebook's lead supervisory authority on data protection within the European Union is Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner.

  • Delia Davidson