Facebook paid contractors to transcribe Messenger calls

Facebook paid contractors to transcribe Messenger calls

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.

The report was released on Tuesday evening.

Facebook reportedly said the transcription service can be selected by users in their Messenger settings, and added the data was anonymized before being heard by contractors.

Facebook acknowledged the transcriptions, which were first reported by Bloomberg, telling the news agency in a statement that they were made with users' permission, but that the practice has nonetheless been stopped.

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. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg denied the idea directly in Congressional testimony. That led some of the workers to believe their work was "unethical", especially when some of the conversations included vulgar material.

"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. They call the client by the code name "Prism".

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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 contractors also weren't told the reason why they were doing the transcribing, the news agency reported.

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The murkiness of what Facebook did with these recordings is creepy, to say the least. It includes no mention of other human beings screening the content.

The role of humans in analyzing recordings underscores the limits of artificial intelligence in its ability to recognize words and speech patterns. "We're always working on ways to make Messenger more useful", David Marcus, the executive in charge of the service at the time, said in a Facebook post.

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