Facebook paid people to transcribe Messenger voice chats

14 Août, 2019, 08:24 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the annual F8 summit at the San Jose Mc Enery Convention Center in San Jose California

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 media giant confirmed that, until very recently, it had employed human contractors to transcribe voice messages sent via its Messenger app in order to check the work of its AI systems.

Apple and Google have in recent weeks said they've halted the practice, while Amazon gives users the option of blocking the collection of their voice by Alexa, the artificial intelligence driving their Echo voice assistant.

On Tuesday, a spokesman said the company had "paused" the practice "more than a week ago" after other companies' audio listening attracted scrutiny from the press.

Facebook first started allowing Messenger users to have their audio transcribed in 2015.

Facebook later told Bloomberg that the human transcriptions were being used to test the performance of its speech-recognizing artificial intelligence - a troubling admission that the company regularly violates people's privacy.

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"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", Zuckerberg told U.S. Senator Gary Peters in April 2018.

Facebook hasn't disclosed to users that third parties may review their audio. Santa Monica, California-based TaskUs instead refers to one of its largest and most important clients only by the code-name "Prism" - which is, ironically, also the name of the NSA initiative exposed by Edward Snowden that installed backdoors in popular online platforms like Google, Skype, Twitter, and... They're hearing Facebook users' conversations, sometimes with vulgar content, but do not know why Facebook needs them transcribed, the people said.

The murkiness of what Facebook did with these recordings is creepy, to say the least.

Facebook claims that it has since stopped this transcription process and "will no longer do so".

"We don't do that", he said.

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