Facebook has revealed that external contractors were hired to listen to, and transcribe, users’ voice recordings, according to a report from Bloomberg.
Workers were given access to audio from people’s conversations on the Messenger App to manually transcribe the content. The aim of this scheme was to improve artificial intelligence systems that are capable of transcribing automatically.
Users whose audio was accessed appear to have opted in to having their Messenger conversations transcribed. Despite this, the Bloomberg report suggested, users may not have known humans were involved.
One firm known to be reviewing conversations is a California-based company, TaskUs Inc. Facebook is one of the company’s largest clients and has been involved in reviewing content that violates the platform’s policies. It has previously been involved in vetting political ads ahead of elections.
Bizarrely, Bloomberg reports that employees at the company are prohibited from publicly mentioning who their work is for, and instead refer to the social media firm by the codename, Prism.
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In a statement, the company said: “Facebook asked TaskUs to pause this work over a week ago, and it did.”
Facebook confirmed that the programme has since halted, with a spokesperson stating: “Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago.”
The admission from the social media giant follows similar revelations that other technology companies used third-party staff for sensitive projects.
Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have all previously confirmed their use of third parties. Earlier this month, both Google and Apple paused programmes involving workers transcribing audio, while Microsoft admitted that voice recordings from Skype were also accessed by human workers.