Global Economy

Facebook reportedly hired people to transcribe voice calls made on Messenger

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg leaves the Elysee Palace after a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Aurelien Meunier | French Select | Getty Images

Facebook contractors were listening to and transcribing select voice conversations that were held using its Facebook Messenger chat platform, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday. The company reportedly had the contractors transcribe chats in an effort to improve artificial intelligence.

Facebook shares dipped slightly after Bloomberg published its story, but shares were still up more than 1% for the day.

A Facebook spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.

Facebook has since halted the practice, the company told Bloomberg. “We paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” the company said, according to the report. Other companies have or are doing the same thing to improve voice recognition in products such as Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.

Apple recently halted a program that allowed employees to listen to a small percentage of Siri voice requests, which are often otherwise handled directly on the device. Google stopped doing the same in Europe where, as in the U.S., Google Assistant queries are sent to the cloud for processing. Amazon does the same for Alexa, but recently rolled out tools that let users opt-out of having their questions analyzed by humans.

Facebook doesn’t have a public voice assistant like Alexa or Siri, however, which makes the report a bit more concerning. Its portal device uses Amazon Alexa, for example. The company has been working on one since 2018, however.

Read the full Bloomberg story here.

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