Facebook outsourced contractors to listen in on your audio messenger chats and transcribe them, a new report reveals.
Bloomberg reports that the contractors were not told why they were listening in or why they were transcribing them. Facebook confirmed the reports but said they are no longer transcribing audio.
“Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” Facebook told Bloomberg on Tuesday.
The social media giant said that users could choose the option to have their voice chats on Facebook’s Messenger app transcribed. The contractors were testing artificial intelligence technology to make sure the messages were properly transcribed from voice to text.
Facebook has previously said that they are reading your messages on its Messenger App. Last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that when “sensational messages” are found, “We stop those messages from going through.”
Zuckerberg also told Bloomberg last year that while conversations in the Messenger app are considered private, Facebook “scans them and uses the same tools to prevent abuse there that it does on the social network more generally.”
How Facebook monitors users’ messages is similar to other big tech companies. In April, Bloomberg first reported that Amazon employed thousands of workers to listen to people’s private exchanges with Amazon Alexa on Echo devices. These conversations were also transcribed to improve software and technology. Amazon said that users could opt-out of this review.
Similar listen and transcribe practices have also been used for Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant. Both companies said they had suspended these practices.
These companies policies about listening in on you are hidden in plain sight. Facebook’s data policy states, “We collect the content, communications, and other information you provide when you use our Products, including when you sign up for an account, create or share content, and message or communicate with others.”
The policy also states that Facebook’s “systems automatically process content and communications you and others provide to analyze context and what’s in them.”
Facebook has instituted a series of controversial policies and was even hit with a $5 billion penalty as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last month over its privacy violations. These specific violations included the use of facial recognition technology without consent, deceptive practices when collecting users’ phone numbers, and sharing user data with third-party app developers.
Digital Trends reached out to Facebook for comment on its transcription of Messenger chats, but we haven’t received a response.
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