Facebook let third-party vendors listen to your Messenger chats

Apple, Google and Amazon recently suspended human review of user audio recordings after reports said the companies used third-party contractors to listen users' voice recordings.

Published: 14th August 2019 12:19 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th August 2019 12:19 PM   |  A+A-

Facebook logo used for representation

By IANS

SAN FRANCISCO: After Google, Apple and Amazon, Facebook has become the latest tech giant who was paying third-party contractors to transcribe and listen to your conversations on its Messenger app.

"Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago," a Facebook spokesperson told CNET late Tuesday.

Earlier, Bloomberg reported on the existence of such Facebook programme. The contractors had no knowledge of where the audio was being recorded or how it was obtained.

Since 2015, Facebook Messenger has offered a feature to transcribe voice clips to text, although it is turned off by default.

"Facebook reportedly said affected users had selected the option to have their voice chats transcribed in their Messenger settings, and added that the data associated with the recordings was anonymized before being listened to by contractors," said the report.

Apple, Google and Amazon recently suspended human review of user audio recordings after reports said the companies used third-party contractors to listen users' voice recordings.

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After facing flak, Google and Apple both stopped snooping on users' conversations.

While Apple suspended the programme that let its virtual assistant Siri listen to users' recordings for "quality control", Google stopped listening and transcribing Google Assistant recordings in Europe.

Belgian broadcaster VRT NWS reported last month that users' conversations with Google Home speakers were being recorded and audio clips were being sent to sub-contractors who then "transcribed the audio files for subsequent use in improving Google's speech recognition technology", thus, raising serious privacy concerns.

The iPhone-maker was reportedly paying contractors to listen to recorded conversations of Siri.

A report that surfaced last week raised concerns as a former contractor at the iPhone-maker claimed that Siri interactions are sent to workers who listen to the recordings and are asked to grade it for a variety of factors.

A Google spokesperson said it has paused "language reviews" while Apple has said it would issue a software update in future that will let Siri users choose whether they participate in the grading process or not.

"Amazon saw the initial round of flak for allowing contractors to manually review Alexa recordings without express user permission, forcing the company to add an opt-out to its Echo devices," reports TechCrunch.

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