Facebook has hired outsiders to transcribe and verify transcripts of audio clips in Messenger. In some cases, this happened without the participants’ knowledge. Facebook says it has now stopped doing this.
Bloomberg reports this citing sources and Facebook has confirmed to the news agency that it ceased this practice more than a week ago. According to Facebook, transcripts were only made of voice clips from users who checked this option in the Messenger app. This option is disabled by default, but if a user chooses to enable it, this speech-to-text feature will immediately apply to all call participants, regardless of whether they have all agreed to the transcripts.
The messages would have been anonymous and hired Facebook employees would have done this to check whether artificial intelligence correctly converted the speech to text. Facebook says it uses machine learning for this and reports that the more users use the feature, “the more Speech to Text can help you.” The feature does not work in secret conversations, according to Facebook.
When reporting that it has now stopped transcribing the sound clips, Facebook also refers to Apple and Google and says that, like these companies, it has paused human checking of audio clips. At Apple and Google, it was also about listening to audio recordings of the voice assistants, namely Siri and Assistant. Facebook has not said it will permanently stop hiring people to check and unsubscribe users’ audio.