A new privacy controversy is arising for social media giant Facebook, which had onboarded contractors to transcribe audio messages of its users. The company has stopped the practice after other tech firms were scrutinized for the same practices.
The rise of a new issue
While privacy issues on Facebook are not uncommon, the company’s recent allegations have taken its problems a step ahead. According to some sources, the company employed hundreds of outside contractors who would transcribe the audio clips of users of its services. The contract employees are shocked by this work who were kept in the dark about how and where these materials were collected.
They were simply asked to transcribe it for the company. The people who disclosed the matter, spoke on the condition of anonymity, that the contractors had no idea why Facebook needed the content to be transcribed. The audio recordings often contained vulgar content too.
The company has also confirmed the news. It said that it hired contractors for the transcribing job, but it does not do it any longer. The company stated,
“Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago.”
It defended itself by saying that the people whose voice recordings were transcribed, chose the option in the Facebook Messenger app. The contractors will check if the company’s AI service interprets the anonymized messages correctly.
All tech giants are guilty
Amazon, Apple, and Google have also been ousted publicly for similar programs. In April this year, Bloomberg revealed that Amazon had a team dedicated specifically to listening to Alexa audio requests. Google also did the same with its Google Assistant.
Both the companies said that they did so to improve their software. Apple’s Siri was also accused of similar practices, which many consider being a grave lapse in user privacy. Apple and Google did announce that they have shut off their programs. Amazon has also said that it would allow its customers to opt-out of the human review system.
Interestingly, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long denied that the company listens to its users. In congressional testimony, he even went on to trash the idea as a “conspiracy theory.” The company was recently fined $5 billion by the US Federal Trade Commission due to issues in its privacy practices. Facebook never told users that they would allow third parties access to their audio clipping, and some contractors feel that the practice is unethical.