One after the other, companies that made smart speakers like Amazon, Apple, and Google listened to some user audio files to help analyze the data better. Now we have news that Facebook did the same thing with Messenger (via Bloomberg).
Facebook payed third-party contractors to listed to anonymized audio messages. Contractors worried it was unethical because Facebook didn’t tell users it did this. The company first started the practice in 2015:
At least one firm reviewing user conversations is TaskUs Inc., a Santa Monica, California-based outsourcing firm with outposts around the world, the people said. Facebook is one of TaskUs’s largest and most important clients, but employees aren’t allowed to mention publicly who their work is for. They call the client by the code name “Prism.”
Facebook also uses TaskUs to review content that’s in possible violation of policies. There are also TaskUs teams working on election preparation and screening political ads, though some of those employees were recently moved to the new transcription team.
Like Apple, Facebook says it stopped audio transcription over a week ago. We don’t know if it’s permanent or if the company will continue the practice in the future.