Facebook admitted that it hired hundreds of outside contractors to transcribe private audio chats from people who used the Messenger app. Some of the workers told Bloomberg they were concerned about what they were being paid to do because of the personal and sometimes vulgar nature of the conversations.
The contractors say they were not told where the audio came from and were kept in the dark about why they were transcribing the clips. Some felt that what they were being asked to do was "unethical" and it prompted them to reach out anonymously to Bloomberg.
Facebook says they used the transcriptions to determine if their artificial intelligence programs had accurately interpreted the conversations.
Facebook told Bloomberg they have "paused human review of audio" following reports that Google, Apple, and Amazon had also been allowing contractors to review audio recordings captured from users.
The tech companies say they transcribe the audio so they can fine-tune the speech recognition software that powers virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa. Google and Apple say they have halted their programs. Amazon still allows contractors to review audio snippets recorded by Alexa but says they give customers the ability to opt-out.
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