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:

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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," 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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