First it was Amazon. Then Apple. Now, to nobody’s surprise, not only was the biggest privacy violator in history, Facebook, also listening in to everything you were dumb enough to say in its proximity, but it also was just as busy writing it all down.
According to Bloomberg, the company which has faced Congressional hearings for virtually every possible and impossible violation of user privacy (and gotten away with it with just a wristslap), Facebook was not only secretly collecting user audio without their knowledge or permission, but was paying “hundreds of outside contractors to transcribe clips of audio from users of its services.” Facebook – and Mark Zuckerberg – also appear to have forgotten to mention this minor detail during their countless sworn testimonies in Congress over the past year.
The work, as Bloomberg notes, “rattled the contract employees”, who are not told where the audio was recorded or how it was obtained — only to transcribe it, said the people, who requested anonymity for fear of losing their jobs.
They’re hearing Facebook users’ conversations, sometimes with vulgar content, but do not know why Facebook needs them transcribed, the people said.
Here’s a lucky guess “why” – because in its attempt to cozy with the government, and replace the NSA, Facebook ran out of in house spies and was forced to hire outside privacy violators in its quest to make a mockery of user privacy.
When approached by Bloomberg, Facebook confirmed that it had been transcribing users’ audio and said it will no longer do so, because somehow that will make it all better.
“We paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” the company said Tuesday. The company said the users who were affected chose the option in Facebook’s Messenger app to have their voice chats transcribed. The contractors were checking whether Facebook’s artificial intelligence correctly interpreted the messages, which were anonymized.
Of course, Facebook can just plead ignorance, and claim all other big tech companies – including Amazon and Apple – were doing the same. Indeed, all three tech giants have recently come under fire for collecting audio snippets from consumer computing devices and subjecting those clips to human review.
Bloomberg first reported in April that Amazon had a team of thousands of workers around the world listening to Alexa audio requests with the goal of improving the software,