Facebook has been using contractors to transcribe Messenger voice chats

Daniel Fowler
August 16, 2019

- Facebook paid hundreds of outside contractors to transcribe its users' audio without their knowledge, according to a report on Tuesday.

Facebook collects and has contractors transcribe the audio data to check the accuracy of its automated speech recognition systems, according to Bloomberg.

Facebook admitted to letting its employees listen in to private conversations of its users, but said that it stopped the practice following similar steps from other majors tech companies, including Google, Apple and Amazon.

A report indicates that Facebook was paying third parties to transcribe Messenger audio conversations.

Facebook has tested their transcription tool by having outside contractors listen to audio recordings of their users, US media reported on Tuesday.

But in numerous hearings in front of Congress, CEO Mark Zuckerberg insisted that Facebook only accessed people's microphones when explicitly given permission to do so for features like voice messaging.

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The murkiness of what Facebook did with these recordings is creepy, to say the least. In a list of "types of third parties we share information with", Facebook doesn't mention a transcription team, but vaguely refers to "vendors and service providers who support our business" by "analysing how our products are used".

The news follows confirmation that Amazon and Google are listening to your voice recordings on Alexa and Google Assistant. That led some of the workers to believe their work was "unethical", especially when some of the conversations included vulgar material.

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"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 USA lawmakers. Machines are getting better at the task but sometimes still struggle with the unfamiliar.

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