Yet again we have another scandal. Yet again, it’s Facebook. Facebook Inc. has been paying hundreds of outside contractors to transcribe audio from Facebook users.
The contract employees haven’t been told where the audio clips have come from or where they have been recorded. They were only told to transcribe the audio that originated from Facebook. This was said by the employees who feared losing their jobs, so they asked for anonymity. They also said that they heard users’ conversations (some with vulgar content) but did not know why Facebook wanted them transcribed.
To answer this, Facebook confirmed that they had been transcribing user audio. They even said that they will not do so again (whatever). The company said that the users who were affected chose to have their voice chats transcribed through the option in Facebook Messenger. The contractors were checking whether Facebook’s AI was correctly interpreting the messages. The messages were anonymized.
Facebook has also paid a $5 billion settlement with the US FTC after the scandal with Cambridge Analytica. The company has long since denied that it collects audio from its users to inform ads or to help determine what people see in their news feed. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, denied the idea directly in Congressional testimony.
The company said that it only accesses users’ microphone if the user has given the app permission and are using a specific feature that requires audio. The feature like voice messaging. The Menlo Park, a California-based company doesn’t acknowledge what happens to the audio afterwards.
The Data-Use Policy
If you’re wondering about the company’s data-use policy. It doesn’t include audio. But it does say that Facebook will collect “content, communications and other information you provide” when users “message or communicate with others.”
Users have not been made aware that their audio messages are being transcribed by. This is making people see the work as unethical, I can certainly see why.