Facebook Did the Sneaky Listening Thing Too

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Facebook Did the Sneaky Listening Thing Too

Illustration for article titled Facebook Did the Sneaky Listening Thing, Too

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Facebook has paid hundreds of contractors around the world to transcribe some of its users Messenger messages, according to a new Bloomberg report. The social network stopped doing the transcriptions a week ago, following public outrage after journalists revealed that Amazon, Google, and Apple employed similar teams to review voice commands for Alexa, Assistant, and Siri. But this Facebook news is somehow more foreboding than anything we’ve heard before.

It suggests that humans are listening to our private recordings more often than we thought. The recordings that Facebook’s contractors were transcribing came from the voice-to-text feature in Messenger. This is a seemingly innocuous tool that allows you to dictate your messages rather than type them out. Google, Apple, and countless other companies offer similar products, many of which are essential accessibility tools. It’s not clear why Facebook was paying to have these messages transcribed, though it seems reasonable that the human transcriptions might be used to improve its AI software’s natural language processing abilities.

The murkiness of what Facebook did with these recordings is creepy, to say the least. The contractors involved, Bloomberg reports, had no idea where the audio recordings were coming from or why they were being asked to transcribe them. Meanwhile, Facebook never disclosed to users that their audio recordings would be reviewed by humans, though they did have to give Facebook permission to access their microphone to make the recordings. Users also had to turn on the voice-to-text service in Messenger.

Still, the whole situation casts Faceboo

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