Facebook Found to be Listening to Private Voice Messages

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After reports of Amazon, Google, and Apple listening in on smart speaker voice commands to better develop its respective AI assistants, Facebook has now joined the creepy eavesdropping fray. This time, the company is guilty of listening to private messages while using Facebook’s Messenger app. 

A new report out of Bloomberg shows that Facebook has been employing hundreds of private contractors to transcribe messages sent using the voice-to-text feature in Messenger. Some rely solely on this feature, which allows users to dictate their messages without having to type, as a means of communication.

It is not yet clear as to why Facebook has been recording these voice transcriptions, though a good guess would be to help improve its version of AI to better understand human language processing. Nonetheless, the details from the Bloomberg report detail the increasingly disturbing process of how Facebook records these private messages. 

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

The team of contractors tasked with transcribing these conversations did not know where the recordings came from, nor were they told why they were transcribing them in the first place. Facebook never disclosed to users that their messages were being recorded. Users were required to grant the app access to use the microphone, which is needed to use the voice-to-text feature. 

This report solidifies the previously ominous rumor of Facebook using your phones microphone to listen in on your conversation. The contractors who spoke to Bloomberg asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution, but they said they were rattled by the work they were doing. Bloomberg reports the contractors heard users full conversations, including “vulgar content” and said the entire process as unethical. 

Facebook has long denied using the microphone on peoples’ phones to listen and record. Founder Mark Zuckerberg even testified before Congress in 2018, explicitly saying “We don’t do that,” when asked if the company used recorded data to better target ads for users. 

This past year has shown that we truly don’t know the full extent of how pervasive and intrusive big tech companies are in our lives. If we’ve learned anything from Facebook constantly dropping the ball on privacy and consumer protection, I think it’s time to finally say goodbye to this toxic social network. 

Avid writer and reader with a curious mind. I'm always looking to get the most out of life! Follow me on Twitter @whatsaschoon

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