Bloomberg reports that Facebook paid “hundreds of outside contractors” to transcribe user audio clips from its Messenger app.
The contract employees were not told where the audio was recorded or how it was obtained. They were merely instructed to transcribe it, says the reports sources, who requested anonymity for fear of losing their jobs.
The employees are hearing Facebook users’ conversations, which includes “vulgar content.” The report says the work rattled the contract employees, who were not told why Facebook needed them transcribed.
When contacted for comment, a Facebook spokesperson told Bloomberg that while they had been transcribing audio, it has no plans to continue, and had “paused human review of audio more than a week ago.”
Revelation of Facebook’s Messenger audio transcription program and its decision to discontinue it comes in the wake of scrutiny of similar human review programs conducted by Apple, Amazon, and Google.
Facebook says that users that had their voice chats transcribed had opted into the program, and that the conversations were transcribed to ensure Facebook’s AI was correctly interpreting the messages. However, Facebook did not inform users that third parties might be reviewing their audio.
While the social network’s data use policy does mention the collection of content, communications, and other information,” but doesn’t specifically mention the collection of audio.
Facebook first started allowing Messenger users to opt to have their audio transcribed in 2015.