Facebook ends human review of user audio after other companies do the same

Andy Meek

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Facebook is now the latest tech giant to put a stop to human review of user audio recordings, following a slew of companies from Google to Amazon and Apple all likewise coming under fire in recent weeks over the human review of audio collected from users.

In Facebook’s case, the company acknowledged Tuesday that it paused the practice earlier this month after those other companies started to attract scrutiny over basically the same thing. That’s according to Bloomberg, which reports that Facebook had been paying third-party contractors to transcribe audio from users who’d allowed their chats to be transcribed.

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The last part there is a bit problematic, given that Facebook’s policies don’t seem to make clear, in easy-to-understand language, that user audio is collected or reviewed by third parties. Some contractors have also reportedly felt uneasy about the practice since users didn’t seem to be aware they would be listening to their recordings. Even so, Facebook’s position, per Bloomberg, is that the affected users here “opted-in” to this practice, with Facebook able to collect audio a number of ways including through its smart speaker as well as its standalone Messenger app.

This news doesn’t exactly come at an opportune time for the social networking giant, given that only last month it agreed to pay a $5 billion fine to settle a Federal Trade Commission investigation into the way Facebook handles user data.

This also comes just a few days after Microsoft contractors were reported to be listening to user audio via Skype and Cortana, as we mentioned here, though the company stressed that the records aren’t user-identifiable. Amazon, meanwhile, now lets users opt-out of human review of Alexa voice recordings, while Apple completely suspended its program that included human review of conversations between users and its Siri digital assistant.

The Facebook news stemmed from contractors who didn’t like the practice and anonymously confirmed it to Bloomberg.

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