News roundup: Facebook joins elite group of companies 'listening in' to users

News roundup: Facebook joins elite group of companies 'listening in' to users

Facebook's listening… but so is everyone else

It's becoming increasingly apparent that when we talk to basically any popular AI-assisted mechanism, whether it be voice assistants or text translators, we can bet that those machines aren't the only ones we're talking to.  The latest player in the saga of companies listening to our conversations without our explicit knowledge is a familiar one, not only in name, but also in privacy blunders.

Facebook has joined Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Google, as yet another company that has employed contractors to listen in on user conversations. Following an investigation by Bloomberg, the company admitted that it had been employing third-party contractors to transcribe audio messages exchanged on its messenger app. As in other cases, Facebook says the messages were "Totally de-identified audio snippets used to improve AI transcription of messages from people who had opted into transcription on messenger."

However, as the Verge points out, nowhere on Facebook's support page or terms of service does it indicate humans would be reviewing audio. In conjunction, Bloomberg says that the contractors tasked with reviewing the audio were not told why they were listening in, how audio was obtained, or why they were transcribing it. They indicated that they were hearing, on occasion, vulgar content, with the work leaving them ‘rattled'.

Facebook says the practice has now been "paused", noting that it's taking the same action as Apple and Google, who also stopped their human review processes. According to Vice, a Facebook spokesperson also added that the practice was "very common in tech". That's not really any kind of excuse, and it's about as comforting as a bed of nails if we're being perfectly honest.


To continue reading...


« A new boss presents CIOs with challenges and opportunities


Pacing the promise of 5G »
Pat Martlew

Patrick Martlew is a technology enthusiast and editorial guru that works the digital enterprise beat in London. After making his tech writing debut in Sydney, he has now made his way to the UK where he works to cover the very latest trends and provide top-grade expert analysis.

  • Mail


Do you think your smartphone is making you a workaholic?