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Facebook paid human contractors to listen to and transcribe audio from users

According to employees familiar with the practice, Facebook has been hiring outside contractors to listen to and transcribe user audio. While Facebook claims the transcriptions were done to improve the voice-to-text transcription features of its Messenger app, the company's data use policy makes no mention of humans listening to or transcribing audio.

It’s not just Apple, Amazon, and Google; the largest social media company in the world has also been listening in on your voice chats.

An article published by Bloomberg earlier this week stated that Facebook has paid hundreds of outside contractors to listen to and transcribe audio clips created by its users. Some of the workers, who requested to remain anonymous, said that they were “hearing Facebook users’ conversations, sometimes with vulgar content,” for as yet unknown purposes. 

In response, Facebook admitted that they had been transcribing users’ audio but would cease the practice. According to the company, Facebook “paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” following suit with Apple. 

The social media giant went on to say that the transcribed audio came from users who opted into the transcription via the Facebook Messenger app. Facebook states that the contractors were hired to improve the accuracy of Messenger’s voice transcription features. It has been confirmed that Facebook has hired outside contractors like California-based TaskUs to review audio content that may be in violation of its terms of service. 

It should be noted that there is no mention of human review of audio in Facebook’s data-use policy. 

This revelation is adding fuel to the growing fire of privacy concerns. Just last week, Apple suspended a similar program that involved outside contractors listening to Siri audio recordings. 

It might be a good time to review the app permissions on your mobile device, particularly with regards to the microphone and the camera. 


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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 08 > Facebook paid human contractors to listen to and transcribe audio from users
Sam Medley, 2019-08-14 (Update: 2019-08-14)