While in the past the social media giant, Facebook, has noted that they do not listen in on people’s conversations it seems that is not quite the case. A recent Bloomberg report has really blown things out of the water and many are outraged.
According to Bloomberg, Facebook has been paying hundreds of outside contractors to transcribe clips of audio from its users. This is quite confusing considering the things noted in the past and how those contract employees are apparently not told where the audio was recorded or how it was obtained. Facing backlash after the Irish Data Protection Commission decided to make it public that they were examining Facebook for possible privacy violations, the company revealed that they had been transcribing users’ audio but also that they would cease immediately.
The social networking giant, which just completed a $5 billion settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission after a probe of its privacy practices, has long denied that it collects audio from users to inform ads or help determine what people see in their news feed. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg denied the idea directly in Congressional testimony.
“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,” Zuckerburg Told U.S. Senator Gary Peters in April 2018. “We don’t do that.”
In follow-up answers for Congress, the company said it “only accesses users’ microphone if the user has given our app permission and if they are actively using a specific feature that requires audio (like voice messaging features.)” The Menlo Park, California-based company doesn’t address what happens to the audio afterward.
Facebook hasn’t disclosed to users that third parties may review their audio. That’s led some contractors to feel their work is unethical, according to the people with knowledge of the matter.
The company itself claims that these messages were transcribed in order to improve AI transcription of messages, but as time passes, we cannot help but wonder if there is more to it and if it does have something to do with ads as many assume. This is something a lot of companies do and not many people realize. Amazon has for a while now employed thousands to listen to what is being said between Alexa and smart speaker users. The list of those who are actually hearing the things we are saying is much longer than most realize.
You will perhaps at least be comforted in knowing that the company claims these audio snips were made anonymous before they were listened to or transcribed at all. Human review of audio in this manner through Facebook is currently on pause but in the future who knows if it will start back up and when? For more information on this topic please feel free to check out the video below.
How does this kind of thing make you feel? Is it a breach in privacy or is it no big deal? While some are quite concerned it seems many people do not care at all.