Tech

Facebook paid to transcribe audio chats from users, report says

Facebook has reportedly been paying contractors to transcribe the audio chats of users on its various platforms.

According to Bloomberg, which cites people with knowledge of the work, contractors were given audio clips with no context of where they were obtained and told to transcribe them.

Facebook told Bloomberg that the users affected by this agreed to have voice chats transcribed through its Messenger app.

Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” said Facebook in a statement to USA TODAY.

Facebook joins a list of tech companies scrutinized over how they protect audio transmitted to services such as voice assistants. Earlier this month, Apple said it suspended a program allowing third-party contractors to listen to questions users ask Siri.

Voice assistants are listening: How to delete Siri, Alexa and Google recordings

Last month, an investigative report by Dutch broadcaster VRT claimed Google Home smart speakers were eavesdropping on private conversations, even when they’re not activated. In a statement to USA TODAY, Google said users must opt in to have their Home recordings stored, and that its Assistant can still be used even if consumers opt out.

In April, Bloomberg reported Amazon employs people to listen to audio recordings from Alexa and transcribe them so the digital assistant can understand speech better. In a statement, Amazon said no audio was stored or sent to the cloud unless Alexa is activated through a wake word of the user’s choosing.

In particular, Facebook has encountered multiple questions about whether they covertly listen to users. Last year, during a hearing before lawmakers, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed a conspiracy theory that its service secretly listens to you through your phone’s microphone to decide what ads you’ll see.

|USA Today

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