Facebook has hired external contractors to review and transcribe audio clips from its users, according to a new report from Bloomberg. Facebook claims that it stopped using human workers to review audio clips "more than a week ago" and noted that the contractors had previously been hired to verify that anonymized conversations were correctly transcribed in the Messenger app.
Since 2015, Messenger offers a feature to transcribe voice clips to text, although it is disabled by default. Facebook claims that only those who have registered for the feature have their audio clips reviewed by external contractors. According to the support page, if even one person in your chat has agreed to Facebook to transcribe the conversation, all audio in the thread would have been translated, regardless of who sent it.
The findings are particularly troubling, because nowhere on the Facebook support page or terms of service indicates that people would rate the audio. “Voice to Text uses machine learning. The more you use this function, the more Voice to Text can help you, "says the support page.
"Facebook says its" systems automatically process the content and communication that you and others provide to analyze the context and what's inside. "It does not include mention of other people screening the content," BloombergIs Sarah Frier reports. Facebook also identifies external suppliers in its terms of service as suppliers that "support our company" by "analyzing how our products are used", but it does not clearly indicate that this may also be people.
The report comes after it was determined that Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon all used human contractors to listen to audio obtained through their speech assistant products without being explicitly transparent to their users. Amazon has since given users the option to opt out, while Google defends its practice and claims that the process helps Google Assistant work in multiple languages. Apple, on the other hand, announced last week that it had stopped using human contractors to review Siri calls, and it will soon allow users to opt out.
Although conspiracy theories about Facebook that secretly listen to conversations have existed for years, it is important to note that Bloomberg "the report does not claim that Facebook actually does. The external contractors were allowed to listen to the audio for which some users – in theory – gave permission. Facebook has not made it clear to users who made their transcripts.