Facebook has come under fire once more, and unsurprisingly, it’s because of a breach of privacy. The social network has admitted to hiring hundreds of external contractors to listen in and transcribe audio clips taken from its users’ Messenger app.
According to a report by Bloomberg, the outside employees tasked with transcribing the audio clips voiced concern over how their respective companies managed to obtained said clips – they weren’t even told where it was recorded – or why they were even asked to transcribe them. One transcriber described some conversation as being filled with “vulgar content”, and even wondered why Facebook would even want it.
For context, Facebook’s Messenger app has a voice-to-text feature that allows users to transcribe spoken words into text. It’s a nifty feature to use, especially when you’re in a position that doesn’t allow you to type or if you are a person with disabilities. More importantly, users can also disable the feature should they chose to.
The problem here is that even if one person turns off the function, if the person they’re chatting with has the feature turned on. That person will still be able to see the transcription. What makes this even worse for Messenger users is that they weren’t aware of the contractors prior, and simply thought that it was Facebook’s AI dealing with transcriptions.
Facebook admitted to having engaged external contractors to transcribing its users audio into readable and tangible data, but has said that it will no longer do so.
Big tech giants listening on their users’ conversations aren’t really that big of a surprise. Prior to Facebook, both Apple and Google came under the spotlight when it was discovered that they too were reviewing the recordings of several of its users who had interacted with their respective digital assistants.