Facebook Inc. admitted to hiring hundreds of contract workers to transcribe users’ audio clips.
The workers transcribed Facebook users’ recorded conversations that included vulgar content.
They were not told where and how the audio was recorded or obtained, nor were they told what the company is planning to do with the transcriptions.
Thus, the contracted workers realised their tasks are unethical.
On Tuesday (Aug 13), Facebook admitted that it had been transcribing users’ audio and added that they will stop doing so.
“Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” the company said in a report by Bloomberg.
According to the statement, Facebook got the audio from users who opted to have their voice chats transcribed in Messenger.
Facebook released a feature in Messenger to transcribe voice recordings to text in 2015. The option is turned off by default. But, even if one person in the chat consented to the transcription, all audio in the chat will be transcribed regardless of who sent it.
The contractors were tasked to check whether Facebook’s artificial intelligence correctly interpreted the users’ messages and conversations.
The controversial tech giant stated that its “systems automatically process content and communications you and others provide to analyze context and what’s in them.”
Facebook’s data use terms did not mention that other third parties or human teams are permitted to process the audio content.
During the much publicized Congress hearing in April, Mark Zuckerberg denied that Facebook listens to users through the microphones on their phones.
“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. We don’t do that.”
Facebook said it “only accesses users’ microphone if the user has given our app permission and if they are actively using a specific feature that requires audio (like voice messaging features.)”/TISG