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Wireless

Facebook admits to transcribing user audio from Messenger, says will halt practice

Wednesday 14 August 2019 | 10:33 CET | News

Facebook is the latest company to have been found to be allowing staff to listen to and transcribe private conversations of users of its services. People with knowledge of the work told Bloomberg the company had paid staff to transcribe audio clips of users. The employees were not told where the audio was recorded, how it was obtained or what it would be used for, the report said. 

Facebook confirmed that it had been transcribing users’ audio and said it will no longer do so, following scrutiny into other companies. Apple and Google took similar steps after they were found to be listening in on user conversations in order to improve their speech recognition services. 

Facebook said the users who were affected chose the option in Facebook’s Messenger app to have their voice chats transcribed. The contractors were checking whether Facebook’s artificial intelligence correctly interpreted the messages, which were anonymized.

 

Facebook hasn’t disclosed to users that third parties may review their audio. That’s led some contractors to feel their work is unethical, people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg. 

At least one firm reviewing user conversations is TaskUs Inc., an outsourcing firm with outposts around the world, the report said. Facebook is one of TaskUs’s largest and most important clients, but employees aren’t allowed to mention publicly who their work is for. They call the client by the code name 'Prism'.

Facebook also uses TaskUs to review content that’s in possible violation of policies. There are also TaskUs teams working on election preparation and screening political ads, though some of those employees were recently moved to the new transcription team.



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Categories: Internet / Mobile & Wireless
Companies: Apple / Facebook / Google
Countries: World
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