Facebook admits to sending your voice messages to third parties to listen to and analyze

Facebook admits to sending your voice messages to third parties to listen to and analyze
Facebook has been paying "hundreds" of outside contractors to listen to, analyze, and transcribe users' voice messages, without informing the users. The company now says that this practice has been "paused."

The social networking giant confirmed that it had been transcribing users’ audio chats and said that, "much like Apple and Google, [Facebook] paused human review of audio more than a week ago," a new Bloomberg report reveals.

According to people with knowledge of the work, Facebook wanted voice chats to be analyzed and transcribed by humans, rather than by automated speech recognition system. Some of the people say that the content they were tasked with reviewing was often times vulgar and even disturbing.

What's more, the outside contractors that Facebook hired to transcribe audio data claim that they weren't told where the audio clips were coming from, or for what purpose they were tasked with analyzing them. According to Bloomberg's report, which cites people who were directly involved in reviewing the sound clips, many of the people who had to listened to what they soon realized were private conversations, became increasingly uncomfortable about the legality and ethics of their work.

In its defense, Facebook says that only people who opted in the Messenger app to have their chats transcribed were affected, and that the "contractors were checking whether Facebook’s artificial intelligence correctly interpreted the messages, which were anonymized." However, the social networking giant has long denied any such practices, including in Mark Zuckerberg's Congressional testimony, when he outright denied the notion:

"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," Zuckerberg told the Congress in April 2018. "We don’t do that."

Facebook revised its data-use policy last year, in an attempt to make it easier to understand for the average user, and the revised version makes no mention of human beings analyzing and transcribing voice messages. It does state that Facebook will collect "content, communications and other information you provide" when users "message or communicate with others."

As of now, Facebook claims that it has halted the practice of sending users' voice chats to be transcribed by outside contractors.

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8 Comments

1. antroid

Posts: 386; Member since: Jan 24, 2018

It seems that Facebook can't catch a break, I'm sure it won't be the last time we will hear about their bad practices

3. Ashoaib

Posts: 3275; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

"But Huawei is bad and they are the one behind every bad thing". Should there be a ban on Facebook now? For repeatedly miss using customer's data and shady practices? Or there is a green chit for being an American company?

7. AbhiD

Posts: 719; Member since: Apr 06, 2012

Why would America be worried with malpractices of it's own company? Ever wondered why China bans all American apps and services but does surveillance with its own apps and services in place? Common sense buddy... Facebook and Huawei doing spying aren't the same thing for America. Huawei does this to harm US, Facebook does it to further it's profits, AI

2. DefinitiveKid

Posts: 261; Member since: May 15, 2013

Doesn't matter, people will keep using facebook/messenger anyway. That's what's the most disturbing to me, everybody is outraged at potential privacy issues, but when such practices are actually exposed, there's no reaction whatsoever. Much like the Face App thing, after numerous articles mentioned their ridiculous personal data policy, people just kept on using the app anyway. Why would companies stop then?

4. Ashoaib

Posts: 3275; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

That's right. People get worried for a time being and after some time they come back to previous routine.

5. NYCundrgrnd

Posts: 6; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

The vast majority of those still using that ap...were under 35 y.o. Clearly their outrage lasts as long as a SINGLE BATTERY CHARGE. Google, Apple, Amazon Facebook, et AL ALL NEED TO BE FINED 20-40% OF TOTAL PROFIT (FROM YEAR PRIOR) TO punish and discourage the blatant disregard of user privacy. But we would need a congress and president that 1. Understood the problem 2. Cared to do something about it.

6. antroid

Posts: 386; Member since: Jan 24, 2018

People usually have short term memory. When a person sees his family, friends and co-workers use Facebook he most likely will use it too.

8. TBomb

Posts: 1389; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

It's like politics... corrupt, but you gotta keep voting. Facebook is just where the world is at today. it's a "necessary" evil to be able to keep up with news, relationships (not who's dating who, but with friends/family), and stay relevant. The world is moving really fast and the easiest way to not be forgotten is to be seen. I'm not saying it's right... but this is how I see it.

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