Facebook has admitted that it hired some contractors to transcribe audio messages sent and received by users of its Facebook Messenger service. What makes this revelation a concern is that users some times did not even opt-in to it but because the person they were in a chat with opted-in, their audio would in turn be transcribed by a contractor.

This revelation didn't come too long after it was revealed that Amazon was storing and transcribing users' Alexa audio without them being aware of this.

What makes this revelation even more concerning is that Facebook gave users the impression that the Messenger voice-to-text transcription feature, which was launched four years ago, was actually being performed by a machine learning algorithm.

β€œNote: Voice to Text uses machine learning. The more you use this feature, the more Voice to Text can help you. You can control whether text is visible to you for each chat.”

The reality, as Facebook said in a statement after it was revealed they were using contractors to transcribe the audio without some users permission, was that the point of the human-transcriptions was to improve the Artificial Intelligence (AI) that could later be used to make the automatic transcription better. How it worked is that the contractors would check the audio to see how good it was as compared to the automatically generated AI transcriptions.

The big issue and worth re-emphasizing is that nowhere did Facebook’s Terms of Service don’t make any mention of any contractor reviewing the audio, in fact, it only stated that the audio is reviewed by software only.

This is one of many privacy concerns coming out of Facebook as questions continue to be raised about whether it can be trusted with payments and running their soon to be launched digital currency, Libra.

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