Bloomberg is reporting that Facebook had previously paid third-party vendors to transcribe private audio clips for them.
Facebook, which had just recently entered a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for $5 billion after a probe into the company’s privacy practices, has now allegedly been caught using a common tactic in Silicon Valley. This tactic involves using people to listen to private voice recordings and transcribe them.
While Facebook had given users the option to not be involved in the data collection, they never stated that third parties would have access to the audio. This process is said to have been used to improve the Artificial Intelligence that drives voice-assisted applications.
Companies like Google, Apple and Amazon also had employed similar practices, but all those companies have since ceased the practice or allowed users the option to not participate. The reason as to why something like this is kept so quiet is because companies like TaskUs, Inc. get contracted by Facebook but everything, even the name of the company, is kept secret.
Bloomberg explained that the company was referred to by its codename in the company “Prism” and workers could not know what company they were working for.
Facebook says that they have stopped the practice and TaskUs confirmed that claim by saying Facebook had stopped asking them to transcribe calls last week. Audio transcription has been an option for Facebook users since 2015 but it is unknown when the use of third-party vendors to transcribe these audio clips started.