- Facebook.Auge and fall of the social network that was born from a drunkenness
Amazon, Apple, Google ... and now also Facebook. The social network has acknowledged that it employed hundreds of external contractors to transcribe some of the voice conversations in its Messenger messaging system, transcriptions that it described as "automatic" in the application but actually performed by a human operator.
Although it is true that many of the conversations were transcribed without help, others were sent to this external team to elaborate more faithful transcripts that served to train the automatic system. The employees did not have access to the name of the person speaking at any time nor did they know the function or destination of these transcripts.
Facebook has also assured the Bloomberg publication that only the conversations of Messenger users who had requested to receive transcripts of their messages - an option offered since 2015 - were sent to this team. The rest of users, therefore, would not be affected.
The case reminds that of its competitors, who in the last month have recognized performing similar practices with the aim of improving the reliability and voice recognition capacity of their virtual assistants. In the case of Facebook, however, the transcription was done on voice conversations that users considered private.
Several associations defending consumer rights have protested these practices, which they consider poorly implemented and worse communicated.
A common defense of these companies is that voice fragments are anonymized and that human operators who transcribe conversations do not know where they come from , but in voice conversations or commands given to virtual assistants it is sometimes easy to include personal data. .
Many of these attendees, in addition, sometimes record conversations by mistake when they believe that they have detected the word that activates them and therefore can listen to conversations that users do not know are being recorded.
Finally, although the possibility of using recordings to improve the system appears in the terms and conditions of use of the devices, users tend to be unaware of their existence and at no time in the configuration of these assistants is clearly indicated.
Both Apple and Google have stopped transcription equipment while trying to implement a system that allows users to opt for their messages to never be heard by a human team. Amazon says it is developing a similar system and Facebook has confirmed that it stopped this practice last week, at the same time as Apple and Google.
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