Google, Apple and Microsoft have come under fire recently for sharing user’s audio clips to third party contractors without proper disclosure. Now, Facebook is joining them. Bloomberg reports that the firm has been paying ” hundreds of outside contractors to transcribe clips of audio from users of its services, according to people with knowledge of the work.”
Facebook allows users to send voice notes and dictate messages in its Messenger app. It’s no surprise that some of this audio would be analysed to make sure its machine-learning algorithms are getting it right. However, the firm fails to make this adequately clear to users. Not even in the much-critiqued legalese of opaque terms and conditions. The use of external contractors also muddies the water a little bit, in terms of how much Facebook can actually control user data once it gets out there.
“Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” Facebook told Bloomberg. This was done in response to the backlash aimed at those companies. Several European states are currently looking into Google’s own fiasco which resulted in private recordings being leaked to reporters as well.
Facebook has previously been subject to conspiracies regarding audio recording. It’s unclear why the firm would inadvertently carry out any actions to feed those conspiracies. For now, it’s best to assume that any tech that allows users to record audio is most likely transcribing snippets of them with an army of low-paid contractors somewhere.