Facebook’s Privacy Woes Continue: Company Admits Transcribing Users’ Audio

Social network said contractors listened to audio to make sure its AI transcribing tools were working properly

Facebook’s privacy woes continue. In a Tuesday report by Bloomberg, the social media giant admitted that it has been paying contractors to transcribe users’ conversations — a practice it said it stopped “more than a week ago.”

The company told Bloomberg it had only been transcribing audio from users who had selected an option to transcribe voice conversations on Messenger; Facebook said it had its contractors check whether its artificial intelligence tools were transcribing conversations correctly and that it didn’t reveal the identity of users to its contractors.

Some contractors, according to Bloomberg, found the practice “unethical” since the company had not told users that outside parties may review their audio. It’s unclear how many users were impacted.

Facebook did not respond to TheWrap asking how long the practice had taken place and if the company planned to revisit it in the future.

Facebook’s stock dropped 2.75% an hour into trading on Wednesday, hitting $183.25 per share.

The company, like many others in recent weeks, has taken a dip as the U.S-China trade battle continues. The stock market was down across the board on Wednesday morning, with the Dow Jones dropping more than 450 points on Wednesday morning.

The news comes just weeks after Facebook paid the Federal Trade Commission $5 billion — the biggest fine in FTC history — to settle an investigation into several privacy issues in the last year. Facebook was rocked by multiple data scandals in 2018, including its admission political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had accessed the profile information of 87 million unwitting users; the firm later used the data to craft political campaigns during the 2016 presidential election. Facebook was rocked again last December,  after The New York Times reported it gave dozens of corporate partners, including Netflix and Spotify, privileged access to user data for years.

Sean Burch

Sean Burch

Tech reporter • sean.burch@thewrap.com • @seanb44 

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