Facebook paid contractors to transcribe Messenger calls

Facebook has been facing broad criticism from lawmakers and regulators over its privacy practices

Facebook paid people to transcribe Messenger voice chats

The contractors had no knowledge of where the audio is being recorded and obtained, Bloomberg cited people who hold these contracting jobs as saying.

While this is bad enough on its own and considering the other multiple privacy concerns Facebook has been regularly facing, it's even more damning when you take into account CEO Mark Zuckerberg's comments from his Congressional testimony that took place back in April 2018.

Users affected are those that opted into having their voice chats transcribed, Facebook told Bloomberg.

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. The contractors were checking whether Facebook's artificial intelligence correctly interpreted the messages, which were anonymized.

Shares of Facebook pared gains following the report.

On Tuesday, a spokesman said the company had "paused" the practice "more than a week ago" after other companies' audio listening attracted scrutiny from the press. That led some of the workers to believe their work was "unethical", especially when some of the conversations included vulgar material.

At least one firm reviewing user conversations is TaskUs Inc. They call the client by the code name "Prism". It's not clear why Facebook was paying to have these messages transcribed, though it seems reasonable that the human transcriptions might be used to improve its AI software's natural language processing abilities. 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.

Facebook says it has since stopped this human review process.

"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", Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in US Senate testimony previous year. Machines are getting better at the task but sometimes still struggle with the unfamiliar. But this Facebook news is somehow more foreboding than anything we've heard before.

Zuckerberg never disclosed that Facebook was sending recordings to third party contractors.

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