Facebook transcribed users' audio and passed it on

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Facebook Inc has been paying outside contractors to transcribe audio clips from users of its services, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday (Aug 13), citing people familiar with the matter. But the company doesn't disclose in its data-use policies that it collects audio from users or that it sends such data to human transcribers, Bloomberg reported.

The contractors involved, Bloomberg reports, had no idea where the audio recordings were coming from or why they were being asked to transcribe them.

Shares of Facebook pared gains after the report and were up 1.66 per cent at US$188.44 (S$260.92).

Facebook confirmed that it had been transcribing users' audio and said it will no longer do so.

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Facebook has stopped feeding users' audio chats to third-party contractors for transcription after outcry over similar practices by its competitors (and a $5bn fine) reminded them some users still value their privacy.

But in numerous hearings in front of Congress, CEO Mark Zuckerberg insisted that Facebook only accessed people's microphones when explicitly given permission to do so for features like voice messaging. One transcriber described some conversation as being filled with "vulgar content", and even wondered why Facebook would even want it.

Facebook says its "systems automatically process content and communications you and others provide to analyse context and what's in them".

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