Culture 2 min read

Facebook Hired Contractors to Transcribe Audio Clips of Users

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

A Bloomberg report just revealed that Facebook had hired hundreds of contract employees to transcribe user audio clips.

According to the contractors, many of them were unnerved when they started listening to the audio conversations. The outside employees had no prior knowledge of the user audios and were not informed of what they were and how they were obtained.

Facebook has admitted to Bloomberg that they indeed hired contractors to do the transcriptions. However, the social media network also said that they’ve already suspended it.

“Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” Facebook said on Tuesday.

The Mark Zuckerberg-owned company explained that Facebook users who had their audio conversations transcribed were the ones who chose the said option in their Messenger apps.

Facebook further said that the identity of the users was not disclosed and that the contractors were only checking whether the company’s artificial intelligence was interpreting the conversations correctly.

Transcribing Audio Clips

Other Silicon Valley tech companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google were also criticized in the past for collecting and listening to audio clips of their users. Usually, the audio data of customers were gathered using smartphones and other computing devices.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Amazon had thousands of workers across the globe listening to people’s Alexa audio requests. According to the company, they’re doing this to improve Alexa’s software.

Apple and Google also used the same kind of reviewing approach, but both companies have since claimed they no longer engage in such practice.

Facebook has long been accused of violating its users’ data privacy. However, the embattled company has denied the allegations. In his Congressional testimony, Zuckerberg also directly denied his company’s involvement in such acts.

People Bloomberg have spoken with revealed that one of the third parties Facebook hired to do the transcription of audio clips is the Sta. Monica-based BPO company TaskUs. When asked to comment on the matter, TaskUs only has this to say:

“Facebook asked TaskUs to pause this work over a week ago, and it did.”

Read More: Facebook Is Planning To Launch Its News Tab This Fall

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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