This Entire Time Facebook was Sending Your Audio Messages to a Third Party Contractors

Facebook and invading user’s privacy, could you name any other iconic partners. It seems that they just can’t leave one another in the dark. After sending shockwaves across the globe last year with the Cambridge Analytica Case (in which Facebook allowed the company to harvest millions of user’s profile and personal data- without their consent), it is up with something new. What is the issue this time? And is it again a cause of concern? Read on below to know the exact cause and why it is indeed worrisome for all of you.

What is This Latest Act of Privacy Invasion by Facebook All About?

According to Bloomberg, which first came up with this news, Facebook has been paying various outside contractors and outsourcing firms to transcribe audio clips of users. What it means that whenever you send any audio clips to any of your friends, Facebook would send these audios to these contractors. These firms would then listen to these clips and then transcribe them as prescribed by the social media giant.

The sole reason they (Facebook) mentioned was the fact that they needed to improve their Artificial Intelligence- and hence decided to transcribe and send your personal voice notes!

What Had Facebook Said in the Cambridge Analytica Case (2018)

In the previous case where it had sold user’s data and later on had to make a settlement by shelling out close to $5 Billion, this is what Facebook CEO had to say to US Senator:

“You’re talking about this conspiracy theory that gets passed around that we listen to what’s going on on your microphone and use that for ads, We don’t do that.” -Mark Zuckerberg

It seems he just can’t simply hold on to his promises for more than a year!

What Facebook Has To Say Now

Now, Facebook has for the first time accepted that it did record and transcribed personal chats of its users and sold it to other firms and contractors. But it disguised itself very cleverly, by issuing this statement:

“Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago”

So, did Apple and Google followed a similar path? Well, we will have a look at that later on. But let’s discuss another important revelation made by Facebook, this time putting the entire blame on the users. This is what they have to say:

The only people who were affected were those who agreed to have their audio messages transcribed.

Did You Really Allow Facebook To Transcribe Your Voice Notes?

Judging by the above statement, it seems that it was the users who had in fact agreed to let their audio clips be recorded and sent over to third party vendors. But is that really the case? Let’s find out.

When you send a voice note/audio clip for the first time via the Messenger app- you will get the following notification from the app:
facebook privacy concerns- grant access

“Turn on Voice to Text in this Chat? Display text of voice clips you send and receive. You can control whether text is visible to you for each chat.”

Below that, users will be greeted with two options: DENY or ALLOW. It has nowhere mentioned that it will record your voice notes and send it over to other third party sources for whatever purposes. Therefore any user, noticing nothing wrong in the above statement, will obviously go on with the first option.

Did the Transcribers/Firms/Contractors Had Any Knowledge About These Audios

Now, this is where it takes an interesting turn. Facebook had explicitly refused to divulge or share any information regarding whose voice notes these contractors or firms were dealing with. They only had to listen to these notes, transcribe them and hand it over to the Silicon Valley Giants. And in return, they were getting paid. They had no knowledge from where this audio was recorded or for what purpose.

What About Amazon, Google, and Apple?

Facebook had stated earlier that as the other three companies no longer recorded the user’s voice clippings, they too have done the same thing. But did these three major tech giants really did the aforesaid mentioned thing in the first place? The answer is YES, and for the same reason that Facebook did- to further improve their Artifical Intelligence.

Amazon recorded user’s voice to further improve and improvise Alexa. Google and Apple did the same for Assistant and Siri, respectively.

So Is Facebook Entirely to Blame?

As strange as it might sound, the entire responsibility for this act does not lie solely on Facebook. Agreed, a major chunk of the blame goes to them, but it has managed to part its way from being the only culprit. This is majorly attributed to its Terms and Conditions and various Privacy Policies that hardly anyone gives a read.

This is what it has to say in its Data-Use Policy:

Facebook will collect content, communications and other information you provide when users message or communicate with others. Its system automatically process content and communications you and others provide to analyze context and what’s in them.”

Similarly, in the list of “types of third parties we share information with,” it refers to:

“Vendors and service providers who support our business” by “analyzing how our products are used.”

Final Thoughts:

Although the act was done by Facebook is entirely unethical and morally incorrect, yet it has a strong arsenal in its defense: its Data Use Policy and the list of the third-party providers that it has mentioned. The final judgment lies in your hand. Do you think it is now time to part ways with Facebook, until it finally treats your Privacy in a more serious manner? Or are you among the very few who believe that it was in its right to carry out such an act, as it has already mentioned all these, although vaguely, in its policies?

We would love to hear your opinion, perspective, and viewpoint on this topic. Do drop your views in the comments section below.