Facebook Has Been Collecting Audio Data From Voice Messages

In case you needed another reason to delete your account

Facebook Messenger App
This app was always annoying. Turns out it was also eavesdropping.
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
By Kayla Kibbe / August 14, 2019 11:23 am

If you’ve ever felt like Facebook is eavesdropping on your conversations, it’s probably because it was. Recent reports have revealed the company has been paying third-party contractors to collect and transcribe audio from users’s voice chats.

Facebook’s contractors have been transcribing the audio from users of the Messenger app’s voice-to-text function, according to Bloomberg’s Tuesday report. The contractors were reportedly unaware of why Facebook needed the transcriptions and were not told where the audio was from or how it was recorded.

Facebook said the affected users had opted into having their Messenger conversations transcribed. However, as Forbes noted, Facebook’s policies make no explicit mention of audio collection, stating only, “We collect the content, communications and other information you provide when you use our products, including when you sign up for an account, create or share content and message or communicate with others.”

Moreover, Facebook doesn’t disclose to users that their data will be collected by third-party contractors or be subject to human review. While the company says its “systems automatically process content and communications you and others provide to analyze context and what’s in them,” it does’t include any mention of other humans reviewing the content, which, according to Bloomberg, has left some contractors feeling their work was “unethical.”

Fortunately, Facebook said it had paused the process over a week ago, following in the footsteps of fellow tech giants including Apple and Google, which have also recently come under fire for collecting audio from users.

The news is only the latest in a long line of privacy concerns Facebook has sparked in recent years. Last month, the company agreed to pay a $5 billion fine to settle an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission into whether Facebook’s handling of user data had violated the terms of a previous agreement.

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