Facebook has (again) a problem with privacy and this time in the spotlight there are audio messages exchanged with Messenger. According to Bloomberg, the company would pay hundreds of external collaborators to listen and transcribe voice messages.
Facebook has admitted that it has transcribed messages in the past, but has also stated that it has already suspended this type of activity for weeks. Which sounds a bit like a refrain now. Whenever a fact potentially harmful to privacy emerges, the company declares that it has already suspended or solved the problem. But Facebook is not alone: in April it was Amazon’s turn , to heal Alexa’s ability to interpret the voice commands given by human beings, he hired thousands of employees to work even nine hours a day .
A few months later, in early August, it was the turn of Apple and Google , who declared that they had blocked (for 3 months Google and on a voluntary basis Apple) their respective listening programs to the voice assistants. The aim is always the same: to improve the recognition capabilities of the voice assistant. All three companies, in fact, have their own assistant, but Facebook?
What is Facebook pointing to? Just developing your own virtual assistant or is there more?
The perplexity that arises is precisely on this point: why does Facebook need to transcribe Messenger audio messages? Who is training his own artificial intelligence in view of the rumoured Facebook-branded voice assistant? Impossible to know, but meanwhile Facebook emphasises that the users involved would have selected the option for transcribing the chats. Option that, if it ever really existed, is currently not present in the app.
In the investigation, another name is also involved. This is TaskUs, a company in Santa Monica whose first customer would be Facebook , one of the protagonists of the Facebook message transcription program. His official comment on the matter was: ” Facebook asked Task to pause this work over a week ago, and it did “, so Facebook would have effectively stopped the program weeks ago. But the matter is delicate, given that Zuckerberg had already been heard by the United States Congress regarding listening to users to propose targeted advertisements .
In short, using your own voice with voice assistants and messaging applications exposes you to the fact that someone, human beings or machines, can listen to everything we say. Those who consider it a problem would do better to disable the access by the app to the use of the microphone directly at the level of the operating system , so as to be certain that no one makes improper use of their private conversations.