Facebook transcribed clips of users’ audio without permission

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Credit: https://www.npr.org/2018/11/21/669995003/no-plans-of-leaving-facebook-ceo-mark-zuckerberg-fires-back-at-critics

Facebook did it again! The social media giant is always courting controversies—and this latest one could have some damaging consequences if not well managed. Bloomberg reports that Facebook has paying hundreds of external contractors to transcribe clips of audio from users of its services.

Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg adds that this has not gone down well with the contract employees who seemed disturbed because “they were not told where the audio was recorded or how it was obtained.” Users’ conversations were being heard, but they [contract employees] do not know why the social media behemoth wants them transcribed, the people familiar with the matter said.

Facebook did not deny the report when contacted, and gave assurances that it would no longer be the case. “Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” the social media giant said per Bloomberg. According to the company, affected users were affected chose the option in Facebook’s Messenger app to have their voice chats transcribed. Contractors, according to the report, were checking whether Facebook’s AI accurately interpreted the messages that were anonymized.

While giving his testimony to Congress last year, founder Mark Zuckerberg had vehemently maintained that Facebook does not use users’ audio to determine the type of ads people see in their feeds. “You’re talking about this conspiracy theory that gets passed around that we listen to what’s going on on your microphone and use that for ads,” the Facebook founder said per Bloomberg. “We don’t do that.”

Reports emerged towards the end of 2018 that Facebook allegedly gave some tech giants access to people’s data The story was based on some internal documents where it said the partnership with Amazon, Spotify, Apple, Netflix, and Microsoft gave access to data years after it was supposed to have been discontinued.

The data-sharing partnership, according to the report, gave access to Apple and the rest of the companies named access to the following information:

  • Bing, Microsoft-owned search engine was granted access to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.
  • Facebook gave Amazon access to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, while Yahoo was allowed to view streams of friends’ posts a couple of months ago; and this is regardless of public statements that it had stopped that type of sharing years earlier.
  • Yandex, Russia’s biggest search engine was in 2017 granted access to Facebook’s unique user IDs even after the social network stopped sharing them with other applications, citing privacy risks. Citing a spokesperson for Yandex, The New York Times reports that the company [Yandex] was not aware of the access and did not know why the social media giant allowed it to continue.

We may not have heard the last as far as the audio transcript as reactions are bound to emanate from this.


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Author: Ola Ric

Ola Ric is a professional tech writer. He has written and provided tons of published articles for professionals and private individuals. He is also a social commentator and analyst, with relevant experience in the use of social media services.

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