Published: Fri, August 16, 2019
Economy | By

Facebook Admits It Has Been Secretly Transcribing Users' Voice Conversations

Facebook Admits It Has Been Secretly Transcribing Users' Voice Conversations

The audio recordings were generated by Messenger's voice chat transcription option, which lets users send voice messages which are then transcribed by AI for the benefit of their recipient. According to Bloomberg, the employees were neither told how the audio clips were obtained, nor given any reasons as to why the company needed them to be transcribed.

Bloomberg said the contractors working on the project were "rattled" by listening to private audio whose origin wasn't disclosed and which sometimes contained vulgar content.

Shares of Facebook pared gains after the report and were up 1.66 per cent at US$188.44 (S$260.92).

Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago.

Facebook later told Bloomberg that the human transcriptions were being used to test the performance of its speech-recognizing artificial intelligence - a troubling admission that the company regularly violates people's privacy.

In a testimony before Congress past year, the company CEO Mark Zuckerberg called it a "conspiracy theory".

Facebook told Bloomberg that it stopped the secretive project last week.


Facebook says its "systems automatically process content and communications you and others provide to analyse context and what's in them".

"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", Zuckerberg told U.S. senator Gary Peters in April 2018.

At least one firm reviewing user conversations is TaskUs, a Santa Monica, California-based outsourcing firm with outposts around the world, the people said.

Facebook and invading privacy - name a more iconic duo.

Now playing: Watch this: Is Facebook spying on you?

To its credit, Facebook was transcribing the audio to improve its AI's ability to interpret messages and not necessarily push ads.

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