Facebook paid people to transcribe Messenger voice chats

Facebook has been facing broad criticism from lawmakers and regulators over its privacy practices

Facebook has long dismissed the rumors that it was listening to users' private conversations in order to target them with ads.

The latest report comes after Amazon, Apple, and Google all came under criticism for collecting snippets from users' conversations and passing them on to human reviewers. Meanwhile, Facebook never disclosed to users that their audio recordings would be reviewed by humans, though they did have to give Facebook permission to access their microphone to make the recordings.

The contract employees told Bloomberg that they were not told where the audio was recorded or how it was obtained, but only told to transcribe it.

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Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago. Again. According to a report from Bloomberg, Facebook has been paying hundreds of third-party contractors to listen to and transcribe audio conversations from Facebook Messenger.

TaskUs contractors also moderate content for policy violations, screen political ads, and work on "election preparation", an ominous term Bloomberg opts not to define but which has previously coincided with mass deplatforming of political accounts in the months preceding elections. The Menlo Park, California-based company doesn't address what happens to the audio afterward. The human transcribers were merely checking whether the AI transcriptions were correct, the company said. That's led some contractors to feel their work is unethical, according to the people with knowledge of the matter.

Last week, a federal appeals court rejected Facebook's effort to undo a class action lawsuit claiming that it illegally collected and stored biometric data for millions of users without their consent. It does, however, say Facebook will collect "content, communications and other information you provide" when users "message or communicate with others".

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