Aug 14, 2019

Facebook contractors transcribed voice messages

Facebook has paid outside contractors to transcribe some users' voice messages, Bloomberg's Sarah Frier reported.

Why it matters: Earlier this month both Apple and Google suspended similar programs aimed at providing quality control for automated voice transcription services, and Facebook says it has done the same. But Facebook's long record of privacy problems, culminating in a recent $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, means that every misstep it makes in this area further frays public trust.

Details: The recordings were taken from Facebook Messenger users who had asked to save their voice chats in text form.

  • The contractors anonymously reviewed the messages so Facebook could monitor the performance of its AI-driven transcription service.

What they're saying: “Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” a Facebook company spokesperson said.

  • The company also emphasized that it has never listened to people’s microphones on users' devices without their permission and explicit activation.

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Facebook's privacy-scandal Groundhog Day


Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Tuesday's news (via Bloomberg) that Facebook had contractors listen to users' private recorded messages to provide transcription quality control was hardly surprising.

The big picture: Google and Apple had been doing the same thing until a couple of weeks ago, when they stopped after reports surfaced in public. In fact, Facebook says it stopped the practice when its rivals did, as well. What's surprising is how little Facebook's playbook around privacy violations has changed, even after 18 months of controversy and a recent $5 billion settlement over the issue with the Federal Trade Commission.

Go deeperArrowAug 14, 2019

Facebook rolls out tool to let users control data collected by outside apps

Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Facebook on Tuesday introduced a new setting to let users view and control data from apps and websites that send Facebook information about user activity away from the app. Facebook is also giving users the ability to clear this information from their account if they choose to, something the company said it was working on doing last year.

Why it matters: The new tool is supposed to give users more control over how their data is shared, in light of revelations through news stories — primarily the Cambridge Analytica scandal — that other companies can access and share user data with Facebook.

Go deeperArrowAug 20, 2019

Facebook's dating service finally hooks up with Instagram

Photo: Facebook

Facebook debuted Facebook Dating in the U.S. on Thursday after offering it for less than a year in some other countries. The company is also finally integrating the dating service with Instagram.

Why it matters: Facebook has 2.4 billion users around the world and is hoping a dating service will keep them around longer.

Go deeperArrowSep 5, 2019