We’ve been hearing a lot about Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft saving voice recordings so that they can train their artificial intelligence. Sometimes that’s with the help of a third party.
We can now add another one to the mix. Facebook admitted that Messenger also saves recordings so that they can train the A.I. Like the other tech companies, they too have ended the practice.
Messenger Voice Calls Transcribed
Well, it’s really not so surprising about Facebook Messenger, is it? Facebook has a history of playing fast and loose with user data.
People with knowledge of the work have said Facebook has been paying hundreds of outside contractors to transcribe audio clips from users of their services.
This was a surprise to those contractors, though, as they weren’t told how the audio was obtained or where it was recorded. They were just told to transcribe it. What they hear are conversations of Facebook users, and they do not know why the company wants them transcribed.
The Irish Data Protection Commission that oversees Facebook in Europe announced it was examining this pratice for possible violations of the strict privacy rules the EU established last year.
Facebook did confirm this practice and also said they would no longer be doing it because of the backlash the other tech companies have received for similar pratices.
“Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” said Facebook, adding that the users who were affected chose to have the Messenger app transcribe their voice chats. The contractors were doing it to be sure the A.I. was correctly transcribing the messages.
Apple and Google have both said they are no longer collecting audio snippets to train their A.I. Amazon was doing it as well with Alexa, but they now give users the option to delete the recordings if they want.
What could hurt Facebook is that they have been accused of collecting audio to give to their advertisers or to help determine what information to include in news feeds.
“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,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg during congressional testimony. “We don’t do that.”
In follow-up answers it was admitted that Facebook “only accesses users’ microphones if the user has given our app permission and if they are actively using a specific feature that requires audio (like voice messaging features).”
One of the TaskUs company’s largest clients is Facebook. They are among the contractors that review conversations, though employees aren’t allowed to admit to it publicly. TaskUs also reviews content for possible policy violations and work on election preparation and screening political ads.
TaskUs admitted that Facebook asked them to pause their work last week and that it did.
Not Being Completely Upfront
Faebook does have a data-use policy that was revised last year, but they do not mention the usage of audio, while they do admit they will collect “content, communications, and other information you provide” when users “message or communicate with others.”
They admit to processing content and communications to analyze context as well but do not mention that humans are doing the analyzing.
Do you use Facebook Messenger? How does this news affect you that they have stopped transcribing audio messages? Let us know in the comments.
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