Facebook paid contractors to transcribe Messenger calls


Facebook was paying contractors to listen to and transcribe Messenger audio.

Angela Lang/The Techy Trends

Facebook is reportedly paying third-party contractors to listen to and transcribe audio clips from its users. Facebook confirmed to The Techy Trends it has now stopped the practice, which the social network was using to check the accuracy of its artificial intelligence system in transcribing Facebook Messenger voice chats, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. The contractors had no knowledge of where the audio is being recorded and obtained, Bloomberg cited people who hold these contracting jobs as saying.

“Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” a Facebook spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The news follows confirmation that Amazon and Google are listening to your voice recordings on Alexa and Google Assistant. Last month, it was also revealed that Apple has contractors listen to Siri recordings, a program the tech giant then also paused. Google was temporarily banned from listening in on voice recordings in the EU at the start of August.

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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. “We paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” Facebook told Bloomberg.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously told the US Senate that Facebook “listen to what’s going on on your microphone and use that for ads … we don’t do that.”

First published at 12:45 p.m. PT on Aug. 13.
Updated at 1:11 p.m. PT: adds confirmation and comment from Facebook