IT'S BILLY'S FIRST DAY AT FACEBOOK as a contractor; he's properly excited. "Will I be working on new services or maybe I'll do some Oculus stuff?" he muses. "Sit there and transcribe these Messenger voice chats," orders a seasoned Facebook lackey, with a thousand-yard stare.
And now all Billy dreams about when he closes his eye at night are how 'dope Quentin's Snap Spectacles are' or where Kamal and Gwendolen will chow down on 'tasty noms' again.
That might very well have been a potential scene at Facebook HQ as the social network has 'fessed up to Bloomberg that is has to kill off its practice of transcribing voice chats made through the Messenger service. It has been paying hundreds of people to do what is probably one of the most hated tasks in journalisms.
Why was Facebook getting contractors to transcribe such chat? Well to make sure its artificial intelligence tech was doing a good job of interpreting the messages. And the transcription was apparently carried out on anonymised data, which came from folks who gave their permission for Facey B to sift its finger through it.
So Facebook wasn't breaking any privacy rules here, but it seems like the move to stop the transcription activity was down to eyebrows being seriously raised over Amazon workers listening to Alexa audio requests, and Apple and Google introducing human reviewers into assessing how Siri and the Google Assistant handled the commands barked at them.
As a result, all three tech giants removed humans reviewers. And Facebook has now done the same.
The main crux of this whole situation comes down to transparency, with fears that humans on the receiving side of the voice data might abuse access to that information in some fashion.
Particular to Facebook was also a lack of transparency, with Bloomberg's sources spouting that contractors from the TaskUs outsourcing service weren't told about where that data was coming from or why they were required to transcribe it.
This evolved into contractors considering their work to be "unethical", as well as noting that they had to occasionally deal with vulgar content in the chats......"oooh Sandra you can fill me cream bun tup anytime" - not actually a transcription extract, unless the coincidence pixies are playing tricks.
We'd want a barrow load of cash and a ritual of purging if we had to transcribe such chats, so we're not surprised that contractors may have grumbled about this morally grey practice. But at least Facebook has nipped it in the bug, leaving the company to potentially progress into its next data dickery. µ
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