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Facebook will pay users $5 for their voice memo to improve speech detection

Nearly six months after Facebook admitted to listening in on its users’ audio messenger chats, the company is now offering to pay for them. 

Facebook announced Thursday it plans to pay some users up to $5 for voice memos in an effort to better develop its speech recognition technology. 

The social media platform will slowly begin rolling out its “Pronunciations” program as part of its market research app Viewpoints, which it launched last November. The program announced today is available only to U.S.-based users 18 years and older with 75 or more Facebook friends. 

According to The Verge, users who do qualify to participate will be prompted to first say the phrase “Hey Portal” and then the name of someone from your friends list. Each statement must be recorded twice, and can include the names of up to 10 friends. 

Facebook is rolling out a program that will pay users for voice recordings that the company can use to improve its speech recognition systems. The pay isn’t much, though — it maxes out at $5 total.

— Jay Peters ???? (@jaypeters) February 20, 2020

The way it works is that once you make a recording, you get 200 points in the Viewpoints app. To cash out, you must have 1,000 points, which only adds up to $5. If you want to record yourself saying “Hey Portal” plus a friend’s name 20 times, it would probably take only a couple minutes. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking on a panel at the Paley Center for Media
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Granted, the trade isn’t necessarily balanced — not a lot of cash for a lot of private, but voluntary, data collection. 

Facebook isn’t the first tech giant to listen in on what its users are up to. Though it may be the first to pay them for their voice recordings (followed by a controversy), it’s still more than nothing. 

Nearly all the major tech companies, from Amazon to Apple and Google to Microsoft, have employed contractors to listen in on the way average people talk to and interact with their devices — making the unofficial slogan for Silicon Valley: Ask for forgiveness, not permission. 

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Meira Gebel
Meira Gebel is a freelance reporter based in Portland. She writes about tech, social media, and internet culture for Digital…
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