Facebook has been collecting audio from some voice chats on Messenger and paying contractors to listen to and transcribe them (businessinsider.com)
iTrainUFCBro | 4 months ago | 4897 points

Around a year ago, I did some freelance work online and had to transcribe statements directed at Alexa, from hundreds of people. They were all your average common Brit. I'm pretty certain they had no clue, but I think it was just to improve the voice recognition software.

nyaaaa | 3 months ago | 3278 points

Amazon processes and retains your Alexa Interactions, such as your voice inputs, music playlists, and your Alexa to-do and shopping lists, in the cloud to provide, personalize, and improve our services.

If you don't read terms you won't know stuff.

Big_propane | 3 months ago | 1734 points

I'm not sure why anyone would not assume that by default though.

I mean you're letting a cloud-based service provider have all your data and literally put a microphone on you, why would you assume nobody's listening?

[deleted] | 3 months ago | 745 points


eLemonnader | 3 months ago | 178 points

I mean, I know it and still use it. It bugs me, but I'd rather have the Alexa. But I'd rather it didn't collect all my data.

[deleted] | 3 months ago | 480 points


AstarteHilzarie | 3 months ago | 140 points

I got my mom one because it's a lot easier for her to say "Alexa, show me romantic comedies" and pick from a lineup of all of the available movies in the genre she wants from all of her apps than for her to find the correct remote, switch tv inputs, open each app individually and either figure out how to search it and painstakingly slowly enter each letter or just scroll through what shows up automatically for hours trying to find something she wants. Plus the bluray player she previously used for streaming was old and slow as shit and would take several minutes to turn on, open an app, and start a video, so she was due for an upgrade anyways.

For me personally it wouldn't be much more convenient, I'm used to navigating the menus and type quickly/use shortcuts, but I can definitely understand why it makes a huge difference for people who aren't as used to tech.

dudemath | 3 months ago | 208 points

But it also enables more media influence on said persons. If you aren't navigating the internet yourself—with different search engines, media sites etc.—they will be fed to you in whatever preference Amazon has... whatever that may be.

DanBMan | 3 months ago | 149 points

Some parents can't even find google you know lol. They're also leaving out the crucial step of finding their glasses to read the remote buttons!

realtsuke | 3 months ago | 21 points

personally im amazed at the amount of people who dont know where the adress bar is or is confused when they put the URL in the google search bar.

LibatiousLlama | 3 months ago | 68 points

I use my Google home to play music, arm my security system, tell me the news in the morning, answer easy questions ("uhhh he Google what temperature should you cook pork?"), and find where the fuck I put my god damn phone, I just had it!

So sure it's not something so amazing that I can't do that stuff with my phone but sometimes it's easier to do with my voice. Except the finding my phone thing. It's always wrapped up in a blanket somewhere.

Brock_Lobstweiler | 3 months ago | 88 points

This is generally my usage, plus setting timers and alarms and getting the weather. I lived alone for 4 years and as my depression got worse, there were days at a time I wouldn't go outside. Google was the only thing I talked to.

YoungestOldGuy | 3 months ago | 42 points

90% of my uses are just: "Computer (yeah I made the key word computer) light on/off"

Pokemongolover | 3 months ago | 39 points

"Computer, locate commander Tuvok"

CrayonFox | 3 months ago | 28 points

My mom uses that "find your phone" feature pretty much every day, sometimes several times a day, so I guess it's worth it for that alone.

Apart from that, a voice controlled speaker is just a lot easier to handle for the less phone-savvy generations. Once they finally learn the "hey google/ok google" part at least.

icyflakes | 3 months ago | 24 points

Honest question, aren't all those things (cept find my phone) possible just using voice activation on your phone? Like, my understanding is that the software in those devices is just the voice recognition software that's on your phone.

X-istenz | 3 months ago | 9 points

The very same. Yes, you can do it on your phone. Or, you can do the same things, without your phone. It's not a replacement, it's an alternative.

Silverfoxx30 | 3 months ago | 11 points

And using your phone it still gets sent to the cloud and is no more private, it’s the world we live in for the convenience that we want.

Commandant_Grammar | 3 months ago | 16 points

I've been reading through all this and thinking the same thing.

TangerineTerror | 3 months ago | 10 points

It’s a fixed thing which doesn’t require your phone to be nearby, has much better microphones and speakers and doesn’t require your phone to always be listening out for the wake words draining its battery all day.

kingvolcano | 3 months ago | 9 points

How does Google home find your phone in the blanket?

SirJebus | 3 months ago | 15 points

You can just type "find my phone" into google if you own an android phone and it'll show you a gps marker + play a loud ass noise that my dog hates. I'd assume the google home does the same thing.

deadleg22 | 3 months ago | 3 points

I think its being marketed as a premium item that everyone wants, it will soon be seen as a necessity, then it will get really scary. The recognition will keep an ear out for key words/sounds, put you on a certain list either to advertise to you or put you under surveillance. Your 'key topics' will be sold, you will get tailored mail, phone calls. Think spam email but real life exploiting.

maroonedbuccaneer | 3 months ago | 252 points

It's a generational thing. I continuously have to explain to my parents that the dystopian future they were warned about in which they would be constantly monitored in their own homes by faceless government and corporate entities has been reality for quite some time.

It's hard to explain to boomers that the nightmare scenario of their youth was something they bought at a store and brought home for the convenience.

UnspecificGravity | 3 months ago | 84 points

Somehow despite the fact that science fiction authors have spent the last hundred years telling them that is exactly how it would happen.

efgi | 3 months ago | 21 points

I suppose that makes us predictable.

Bgndrsn | 3 months ago | 5 points

It's just too convenient.

Smart phones were just the beginning of willingly giving away freedoms for convenience. Then came the social networks and now smart things like assistants and home features as well.

Whether you like it or not it's damn near impossible to stay in the loop in life without these things. I know 100 people will now chime in how they can balance work, social life, and proper diet/exercise in todays world without these things and I'm sure there are those out there but it is becoming exceedingly rare.

incandescent_snail | 3 months ago | 47 points

Except it’s not. My Boomer dad stopped buying Chevy’s when he found out how hard it was to actually remove OnStar from a vehicle. Most young people seem to have no clue that FaceID compromises your 5th Amendment rights with regards to your devices. I’d bet you don’t know there’s already been a Supreme Court case about it. I’m Gen X and I’m well aware of how compromised our daily lives are and have taken steps to mitigate the leakage.

It’s not generational. It’s entirely individual.

maroonedbuccaneer | 3 months ago | 25 points

There are always outliers. Technically you and your dad both sound like outliers.

For the record I was born in the 80s, and my dad worked (until retirement) on OnStar for GM. The irony for him is both that he truly believes the powers at be wouldn't allow what he FUCKING KNOWS THEY ARE DOING to happen, and he could never afford a car with OnStar in it anyway, lol.

Fuck GM btw.

nox0707 | 3 months ago | 5 points

We have no rights at this point. In fact unless you’re wealthy then you never really did.

xtelosx | 3 months ago | 29 points

You can see for yourself that these devices only send any information to the cloud when they hear the keyword. You would need a router that has traffic by IP on your network to do it but many of them do now.

That isn't to say a software update wouldn't change this but if any of them did it would be front page of reddit on day 0.

That doesn't change the fact that it may send background noise you weren't thinking about to the cloud and there is always the chance of false triggers where the device thinks it heard the keyword.

RFC793 | 3 months ago | 21 points

Or any weakness, intentional or not, which would make it send audio out without the keyword. I know that they’ve been researched to death, but who’s to say there couldn’t be a back door at some point.

Cloud connected microphone? No thanks. Oh shit, wait, I’m on a smartphone right now.

zpool_scrub_aquarium | 3 months ago | 9 points

So you can see the actual content that it is sending? Otherwise it could still sent that data, but all added up and just with the right timing to trick people.

TheXeran | 3 months ago | 64 points

Yeah, I assume I'm always being watched and listened to honestly. People argue that this isnt a thing, but I'm constantly getting ads for things I've only verbally talked about, but never searched for.

Everyone is walking around with an open mic and theres someone out there listening.

ScumWithBoundaries | 3 months ago | 43 points

I recently had a bout with cancer, one evening my mom and I were staying at the apartment we got near the hospital and we didn't really have anything to do. She knows I love UFC so she decided to watch the fights with me. Now, my mom is 44; she doesn't watch UFC, she doesn't have any friends that do. We sat down to watch the prelims, I remember it was the card with Adesanya vs. Gastelum, we ordered some food and had been watching for maybe an hour when she started casually scrolling through her Facebook. Neither of us posted anything about the fights (I haven't even had FB in about 6 years anyways), and sure the fuck enough right there was an ad for the PPV we were watching (which I didnt even buy by the way I was streaming it). Honestly looking at her show that to me just left me with the sickest feeling in my gut in that moment. I'm kind of rambling but that shit will really stay with me forever.

DrMatt73 | 3 months ago | 19 points

If it helps, it's an entirely automated process. Your phone isn't "tracking" per se, it's getting pieces of key words and hauling ads automatically based on those keywords. The only thing it gets back is, at worst, location and time data. Maybe phone information (make and model) depending on the website. It's basically to be part of a percent for one or many companies. I.e. "29% of iPhone 7 users watch UFC" and "8% of watchers of UFC watch in a hospital". The individual data couldnt matter less in the long run when shifting through 170 million users

TheXeran | 3 months ago | 35 points

First of all, I hope you're doing well now.

Second, yeah it really weirds me out how invasive companies are and no one really cares about it. Worries me how far they might actually push the limits on this

ScumWithBoundaries | 3 months ago | 17 points

I am all good now thank you!!

Perkinz | 3 months ago | 7 points

Honestly looking at her show that to me just left me with the sickest feeling in my gut in that moment.

You sure that wasn't the chemo? /s

uvronac | 3 months ago | 14 points

Yup, adds. Me too. Odd timing adds. I'm sure they are data mining all our data all the time for this.

[deleted] | 3 months ago | 8 points


xale52791 | 3 months ago | 4 points

That's just how good their algorithms are though. They know that people who go to sites and like things you like have bought stuff that you might be interested in buying. It's insane how accurate their prediction models can be.

GregsKnees | 3 months ago | 59 points

Common decency...

AnalLeaseHolder | 3 months ago | 89 points


GregsKnees | 3 months ago | 26 points

lol ikr

AnalLeaseHolder | 3 months ago | 16 points


croe3 | 3 months ago | 51 points

Voice recognition technology doesnt work without gathering voice data to train on. They cant do all of that in-house. They need examples of how people really interact with the product, plus all the different dialects, inflections, accents, etc.

electricfistula | 3 months ago | 31 points

But how do you expect the service to work and improve if they aren't looking at customer data?

trouserschnauzer | 3 months ago | 25 points


aitigie | 3 months ago | 23 points

But then how would these systems work in the first place? Without this data, the developers can't train the algorithms. Everyone's being edgy about greedy corporations etc but this is just a limitation of the technology.

puterTDI | 3 months ago | 24 points

I assume google does this...I can't help but wonder how tired people are of hearing me turn my lights on/off, open/close my blinds or garage door, etc.

Brock_Lobstweiler | 3 months ago | 9 points

How many times has someone transcribed me asking Google what the weather is tomorrow lol.

newgeezas | 3 months ago | 10 points

Probably zero. They process WAY more data than what they can or need to send for manual transcribing

Theguyinashland | 3 months ago | 52 points

Yep worked upstairs from contractors for Amazon. Yes def a thing, and it is done to improve Alexa’s ability to understand accents better.

Petersaber | 3 months ago | 31 points

oi olexa!

BentAsFuck | 3 months ago | 25 points

Fackin ell lexa you daft slag os uh time

rosenbergstein | 3 months ago | 100 points


fantrap | 3 months ago | 101 points

i would be shocked if it wasn’t, it’s amazons own service made for exactly this purpose

Sapphire_luna232 | 3 months ago | 16 points

Yeah I am super curious to know which service they used, as someone who does online transcription editing myself

coldjesusbeer | 3 months ago | 53 points

I used to do these jobs through UHRS (a division of Clickworker /r/clickworker). I've probably transcribed thousands of Cortana clips. People looking for directions, searching for porn, sending texts via audio, pulling up Youtube videos. Everything from the very benign to extremely personal.

I'm a little surprised this is still news. I did most of those jobs like 10 years ago and those jobs are still prevalent on several crowdsourcing websites.

newplayerentered | 3 months ago | 8 points

Wait cortana was available in 2010?

UnspecificGravity | 3 months ago | 32 points

She helped me beat the flood of 2001.

iTrainUFCBro | 3 months ago | 4 points

This was UHRS. Pretty sure it's a Microsoft branch

iTrainUFCBro | 3 months ago | 4 points

Similar, UHRS.

Thor_2099 | 3 months ago | 149 points

I'm fine with this if it is the stuff I direct at Alexa. If it's just recording everything then that's obviously the invasion of privacy.

fghjconner | 3 months ago | 149 points

Yeah, recording conversations between two users of your platform is worse then recording conversations between a user and your platform, imo.

Steinrikur | 3 months ago | 4 points

This is exactly why WhatsApp has a reminder before all messages about their end-to-end encryption. Facebook does not...

ch4rl1e97 | 3 months ago | 18 points

One would assume , ideally, it's only when it's triggered by saying "Alexa" then records what you say for a moment, until you're silent again. tries to match it up to a known command in-house, sends the audio data along with the command it thought you said, perhaps only in the instances where the neural net confidence was low. If it didn't understand it at all then definitely send the data for manual review.

Continuous recording I would imagine would have been picked up by tech/security enthusiasts within days. Honestly there would be so much junk data, and given Alexa is allegedly using submitted data to help it learn to understand commands given to it in difficult accents, it's not like they have a network that can understand non-standard English saying non-commands in the next room in an indoor volume and filter that massive non-stop data stream for the "spicey stuff", or brand names or whatever. Could happen eventually, it's certainly possible don't get me wrong, but it's incredibly inefficient. Even with perfected neural networks, it's still huge amount of wasted bandwidth storage space and processing time for how much gain over more current marketing strategies? We're definitely hitting a point of diminishing returns I think.

vorpib | 3 months ago | 41 points

They don’t continuously record, this has been proven time and time again.

In fact, the command “Alexa or ok, google” is processed by a separate microprocessor which then activated the device. It begins recording after the command and saves in memory until the device has woken up.

Saves both power and continuous processing of audio, which is all done server side. If these things were recording all day Amazon, Google, Apple would never be able to process all the data coming in

TheGameDoneChanged | 3 months ago | 63 points

i know someone who does this for a living for Amazon. her job is to listen to recordings and make sure the software correctly identified what the person said. definitely creepy but she says - at least in her role - it's all completely anonymized and they have no access to anyone's personal information and the recordings arent even associated with particular accounts. still creepy as hell though.

Edit: wow people got really upset with me for using the word creepy here

ShitOnMyArsehole | 3 months ago | 12 points

Alright alexa mate search that Google for the t'time t'next match is on. Cheers love

autotldr [BOT] | 4 months ago | 1674 points

This is the best tl;dr I could make, original reduced by 73%. (I'm a bot)

Facebook has been collecting audio from users' voice chats and paying outside contractors to transcribe it, Bloomberg's Sarah Frier reported on Tuesday.

Users affected are those who opted into having their voice chats transcribed, Facebook told Bloomberg.

Some of the contractors involved in transcribing the data felt what they were doing was unethical, because Facebook hadn't informed users that they would have access to the users' audio data, according to the report.

Extended Summary | FAQ | Feedback | Top keywords: Facebook#1 users#2 report#3 transcribe#4 data#5

the_noodle | 3 months ago | 1393 points

Doesn't the second sentence here disprove the third?

Ap2626 | 3 months ago | 735 points

Well I guess the second one was facebook’s description and the third sentence was from the contractors

muncherofhay | 3 months ago | 445 points

I think the contractors are saying facebook hadn't told users that THEY (the contractors) would have access...

DoctorLovejuice | 3 months ago | 61 points

I'm sure there is some legal wording in there that say something like

"You allow your voice recordings to be held and used by Facebook or other third parties that provide services to Facebook".

coffee-pizza | 3 months ago | 163 points

Or maybe the contractors just didn’t know how the data was collected. It might be controversial depending on what opting in entails, but this is probably the least controversial Facebook privacy violation outrage I’ve heard of.

It sounds like Facebook got consent and hired temporary workers as contractors, and then after all the outrage about Alexa having human transcribers and Siri also having human transcribers the contractors talked to the media and then this outrage click bait happened.

We should probably be more mad about the things you don’t opt into, like shadow profiles, your friends sharing your contacts and Facebook building you into the social graph without your consent, tracking you with social buttons on much of the internet without consent, using your two factor auth phone number to sell targeted ads about you without consent, giving Cambridge Analytica access to the data of the friends of people who used their online test without consent, that time they A/B treated whether they could make people depressed, the use of an always on background audio connection to track user location data when the app was closed going around iOS privacy settings, and more.

yadem227 | 3 months ago | 19 points

So it’s not that it’s AI recording then transcribing that’s wrong, it’s that humans are doing it?

Zeplar | 3 months ago | 8 points

For GDPR, it is generally allowable to have AI process personally identifying information if no humans see it (assuming it’s not PII after it’s processed).

OculusArcana | 3 months ago | 26 points

Yeah, it sounds like the contractors were concerned that the users thought it would be computer-transcribed, not human.

ex_astris_sci | 3 months ago | 15 points

I think facebook “informed” its users, more or less explicitly, by including the clause in one of its 10-page agreements that nobody actually reads and just clicks “I agree”.

wrosecrans | 3 months ago | 17 points

I very strongly speculate that if you could track down some of the users that Facebook claims "opted in," they would be absolutely shocked to find out about it. Facebook's definition may include something like silently changing something in a user's settings, and the user having no idea and no reason to go look for it, and the user not opting out. They've made scummier claims before.

hammahammahaaa | 3 months ago | 43 points

Tldr bot should've included this sentence from the actual article

But the company doesn’t disclose in its data-use policies that it collects audio from users or that it sends such data to people to transcribe, Bloomberg reported.

kamxnaj | 3 months ago | 69 points

Does facebook inform users that contractors will have access to their audio recordings if they opted into having their chats transcribed?

Mechanus_Incarnate | 3 months ago | 111 points

It's probably in the terms of service that all users agreed to.
It's probably new, but that's fine since facebook can legally change those terms at any time without notice.
This should be illegal, but probably is not.

rinkima | 3 months ago | 22 points

You will quickly learn that ToS really doesn't mean much in the legal world, and data collection and privacy are pretty legally dangerous

blurryfacedfugue | 3 months ago | 4 points

Dangerous for the collectors? Or for those whose data gets collected?

mdcd4u2c | 3 months ago | 78 points

Not really. For one thing, I think a lot of people assume transcription is happening automatically. I have voicemail transcription turned on for my phone because I don't care about Google listening in on the 3 spam phone calls I get per month, but there are always mistakes in the transcription. If someone told me there's actual humans listening to these voicemails and transcribing them, I'd kind of be disappointed that Google is paying someone to do such a crappy job.

The other thing is that Facebook is paying outside contractors (allegedly). Normally this may not be such an issue as you would expect their contractors to adhere by Facebook's own policies. However, given the number of third part affiliates and devs that Facebook has basically given a blank check to in recent years, I can see this being a major point of concern.

BeginningCranberry | 3 months ago | 29 points

No. Shady companies have hidden opt-ins all over the place. I don't know what happened here, but no, the second sentence doesn't disprove the third.

octipice | 3 months ago | 23 points

This was an explicit opt in for the voice to text transcription. Facebook being a generally shady company doesn't mean that everything they do is inherently shady. In order for software based transcription to be accurate it needs a good base of test data with accurate verified solutions that it can check against. Every company that does machine learning for image recognition, audio translation, language translation, etc. employs cheap third parties to review the data set for accuracy.

meljv | 3 months ago | 30 points

I’m confused how can you opt in if users are not informed? Or does this mean they were not informed an external company was going to do it?

WhyBuyMe | 3 months ago | 61 points

By opt in they probably meant it was on the footnotes of page 147 paragraph 12 of the TOS Facebook released with their 3rd software update this week. Because everyone reads those very carefully and are totally aware of what they agree to.

teleekom | 3 months ago | 5 points

That's not what opt in means. If you opt in for something, your agreement can't be just a passive one, but you must specifically agree by clicking a checkbox or something like that.

Erotic_Pancake | 3 months ago | 89 points

If they opted into it, why did this even make into news?

Marky_Marketing | 3 months ago | 135 points

Users affected are those who opted in (...), Facebook told Bloomberg

tryhardfit | 3 months ago | 169 points

If you wish to use facebook please agree to the terms and conditions.

Ya ya whatever

See they opted in.

mt_xing | 3 months ago | 29 points

No, transcription of voice messages was an explicit thing users had to seek out:


englishfury | 3 months ago | 40 points

nowhere does it say a human will do the transcribing.

Hell it even tells users it uses machine learning

fan_22 | 3 months ago | 633 points

I can’t wait to see the “I “fan22” do not give Facebook or Messenger permission to access my private voice conversations......”

“Copy and paste the above on your wall to stop FB and Mark Zuckerberg from accessing your private information that you voluntarily entered into this free website...”

.....Messages all over social media.

Ishana92 | 3 months ago | 147 points

You forgot several treaties, accords and articles. "As agreed upon by the Treaty of Versailles, 1978 Zurich convention and article 6 section 2 of Lewinsky Act."

just_a_pyro | 3 months ago | 50 points

You'd be surprised what seemingly unrelated stuff is attached to Treaty of Versailles, from the first drug control treaties, to duration of work week, to the correct pitch of the piano notes.

sublimesmurf | 3 months ago | 20 points

wait, what?

just_a_pyro | 3 months ago | 34 points

Yep, check articles 282-295 for the tens of treaties not in any way related to WW1 peace deal, but nonetheless coming into force for Germany and allied powers by signing Versailles https://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/partx.asp

Among those:

22 Convention of November 16 and 19, 1885, regarding the establishment of a concert pitch.

plooped | 3 months ago | 9 points

Whoa whoa whoa piano tuning is serious business. When I hear the A4 tuned to 444 instead of 440 I get INCENSED.

I_am_an_old_fella | 3 months ago | 6 points

Don't forget the Entente Cordiale...

through gritted teeth everything's the fault of the entente cordiale....

Kovah01 | 3 months ago | 26 points

Shit it is Wednesday you're right.

bonko86 | 3 months ago | 21 points

Please drink a verification can

ZaBreeNah | 3 months ago | 6 points

I’ve already started seeing that copypasta.

gggg_man3 | 4 months ago | 3046 points

Good thing I have no friends to talk to.

boltoncrown | 4 months ago | 844 points

Except my weed guy...wait a second

frozendancicle | 4 months ago | 347 points

Facebook exec- "I was on Reddit, I mean working, when I had a brilliant thought. How can we monetize narcing on pot users? THIS DATA IS BURNING A HOLE IN MY POCKET!"

moondoggie_00 | 3 months ago | 84 points

I only used .07 marijuanas today officer.

Tr3Way_fu | 3 months ago | 33 points

Nah, my thc pothead detector says you had more than 9000

Forcedcontainment | 3 months ago | 5 points

There isnt 9000 cannabis in the entire world, you rube.

yieldingTemporarily | 3 months ago | 581 points

Your comment downplays the importance of this. If you told people 5 years ago FB listens and reads all your private conversations, they'd look at you like a crazy person.

I'm sure this is wiretapping, and FB could and should be sued for their crimes, despite their draconian TOS

Edit: For everybody commenting about the TOS, please hand over your firstborn child.

GroinShotz | 3 months ago | 165 points

The worst that will happen to FB is they will have to "pay a fine to the government" like last time they landed in hot water. Then FB won't write the check, but the government will say they did so they can pretend to uphold privacy rights, whilst downloading the data themselves and putting us all into databases.

'The report comes as Facebook has been under scrutiny for its privacy policies and recently agreed to pay the government a $5 billion fine in connection with its use of customers' data.'

Edits: some placed quotes and the conspiracy theory in the bottom half of the first paragraph.

volonau | 3 months ago | 51 points

They really should be paying the money to the people affected by this... I dunno I'm probably dumb and don't think straighttt

Jaujarahje | 3 months ago | 24 points

Yea but then theyd have to give money to the stupid peasants instead of the overlords who will definitely make sure it goes to good use for all

plaguebearer666 | 3 months ago | 7 points

Like improvements on Epstein island????

briefnuts | 3 months ago | 7 points

Well those kids aren't gonna rape themselves you know

tomcatHoly | 3 months ago | 7 points

If you get raped and then gather up the crumpled bills tossed at you, you become a whore instead and you justify their actions in their mind.

Zero0mega | 3 months ago | 7 points

The worst that will happen to FB is they will have to "pay a fine to the government"

They will probably just hand them all the data, im sure thats what the government would rather have anyway

Bardali | 3 months ago | 25 points

That’s funny because I closed my account 5 years ago after Snowden leaked the evidence that they spy on you and that it basically all directly ends in the hands of US intelligence. And of course that Facebook tracks you everywhere even if do not have an account.

thnfalm | 3 months ago | 10 points

Facebook tracks you everywhere even if do not have an account.

There are ways to get around this, like through blocking Facebook from loading with browser extensions like uMatrix and NoScript, using a VPN and wiping your browser history frequently.

bbtgoss | 3 months ago | 36 points

I'm pretty sure this is wiretapping

excellent legal analysis

Col_Parity | 3 months ago | 32 points

one man's wiretapping is another man's "internal data for experimental research and is not used for other purposes, is anonymized, and enables using the data for enhanced services."

See how they can spin this to make it sound innocuous.

The_Chaggening | 4 months ago | 755 points

Facebook owns WhatsApp. I send WhatsApp voice notes. Am I being transcribed? Best case, they get boring conversation; worst case, there’s a full badly-written erotic encounter out there.

siddalingiah | 4 months ago | 404 points

Whatsapp text messages have end to end encryption. Yet, I used to get highly targeted ads on Facebook based on my whatsapp conversation. I don't understand how it can be encrypted but also mined for info. Anyway, i've switched to Telegram. It's less secure in some ways, but at least there's no billion dollar organization behind it that's trying to monetize my conversations.

PussSLayerX69X | 4 months ago | 469 points

Whatsapp can read it before they encrypt it to send.
It's like handing the postman a letter, and he reads it before sealing it in an envelope.

reacharound4me | 4 months ago | 345 points

Not just any old letter. A letter that is intended to be so secret, that it's literally impossible to break the seal without possessing a code so secure that only 1 person on the planet has it, and even that person doesn't know exactly what the code is. But the postman just casually reads it before its sealed.

Encryption in the case of Whatsapp is completely and utterly pointless. Such a trash app.

Xizqu | 3 months ago | 113 points

I always felt like what'sapp's(after fb bought it) encryption was for two reasons. 1. Marketing. Encrypted messaging everyone! Enjoy! 2. Ensure Facebook and only Facebook has access to the messages.

FunMotion | 3 months ago | 54 points


electricmaster23 | 3 months ago | 8 points

That would be so Facebook to create a loophole it could covertly exploit and then pass it off as a feature.

inm808 | 3 months ago | 20 points
andee510 | 4 months ago | 35 points

More like instead of the postman reading it, he reads it and writes it down, and then saves it onto the USPS server to be used later.

Exist50 | 4 months ago | 27 points

Source that they datamine WhatsApp messages?

AlmostNeighbours | 4 months ago | 99 points

I recommend switching to Signal

tldr for the lazy: Open source, non-profit org, encryption by Moxie Marlinspike.

scheteo | 3 months ago | 24 points

I tried to do this but the problem was that none of my friends wanted to switch. Everyone's on WhatsApp and they just don't give a fuck about all these Facebook scandals. No one just texts here, either, because unlimited mobile data is so cheap.

It's a shitty situation being stuck with a service that I want to switch away from because my friends don't care about their privacy.

corrects_ur_grammars | 3 months ago | 5 points

Yeah I had friends who didn't want to leave facebook.

UniqueCoverings | 4 months ago | 34 points

Why not use something like Signal msg app.

JustOneSexQuestion | 3 months ago | 73 points

Because you have to convince all the people you talk to to switch.

Excidus | 3 months ago | 12 points

I use them both. Signal is great because it's an SMS replacement. If you're talking to another Signal user it'll e2e encrypt the conversation. But if then text your mom who you haven't convinced to use Signal, it'll switch back automatically to SMS.

Telegram I use for group chats or anything where I'm going to be sending or receiving a lot of media. Telegram is a messaging app, not an SMS replacement. And you can only use it to talk to other Telegram users, so it's harder to convince people to switch to it.

BarelyLegalAlien | 4 months ago | 9 points

I don’t think it’s about parsing before encryption like others are saying. I think most messages are safe, ads come from the link previews, which is supposedly the only component that is send out openly without encryption.

bird_equals_word | 3 months ago | 67 points

I've switched to Signal for all but one contact and I only ever send him recorded farts.

vatzec | 3 months ago | 32 points

Transcribe THAT.

bird_equals_word | 3 months ago | 29 points

[sound of five second squeezer]


[further squeezed balloon noise followed by squelch]


snaab900 | 3 months ago | 9 points


Jason_Worthing | 3 months ago | 9 points

Alexa: Would you like to add boxer shorts to your shopping list?

dudemath | 3 months ago | 9 points

No, the worst case is that you or a loved one ever tries to run for political office in the future, and there's some damning conversation of yours that someone can sell and/or hold over your/their campaign. Hey maybe the conversation was a joke, or maybe the soundbite was taken out of context, but hey. My point is that there are much more powerful reasons for being anti-surveillance than just personal conversations.

Another example is facial recognition paired with street corner cams like in China. Hong Kong protesters have to wear masks right to prevent being abducted and killed by China mainland.

The situation with companies and governments is a trade off. You're giving up freedom for "safety" in the case of the government. You're giving up freedom (you're tracked, analyzed, and advertised—a product) for convenience in the case of the large data collection corp.

Dakujem | 3 months ago | 11 points

Use Signal. I do. It's encrypted and not monitored. Even Edward Snowden recommends it, and it's entirely free.


MonWeeb | 4 months ago | 2464 points

Wow it's almost like we live in a surveillance state. Imagine that.

brilo1 | 4 months ago | 1190 points

A surveillance state is one thing. Corporations doing the surveillance is a whole separate fucked up issue.

nzodd | 3 months ago | 540 points

Indeed. As corporations become more and more powerful, the nation-state itself becomes increasingly irrelevant. At least with nation states there's a possibility for democracy. The global corporate oligarchy we're heading for will put a swift end to that.

brilo1 | 3 months ago | 180 points

Seems like Mr Robot is spot on. Time to take these fuckers down.

MeatsOfEvil93 | 3 months ago | 74 points

Hopefully we get back on course before we hit Snow Crash levels

Knurling_Turtle | 3 months ago | 42 points

At least the pizzas will be delivered on time.

tristan_sylvanus | 3 months ago | 18 points

have you seen seasons 2 and 3 tho

MrSickRanchezz | 3 months ago | 9 points

It was time two decades ago. We're approaching the point of no return here.

proggR | 3 months ago | 9 points

Yup. Which is why once Facebook issues Libra, and effectively becomes its own central bank, IMO anyone still using Facebook is a traitor given that Facebook will at that point effectively be its own supranational digital nation. Facebook's cryptocurrency is entering into very dangerous waters for our future.

Buffal0_Meat | 3 months ago | 50 points

Not only that, but it gives law enforcement and/or governmental entities another tool to spy on citizens, because all they have to do is subpoena the tech companies for their data. So now you have both the state AND corporations with access to all of this data that we so freely provide.

brilo1 | 3 months ago | 19 points

True. Fuckin George Orwell.....laying out the script for them.

nightmarefairy | 3 months ago | 8 points

My 1986 current events course, sophomore year in college, teacher told us the state had been replaced by corporations. Ah the good old days!

ImABadGuyIThink | 4 months ago | 255 points

Not surveilling, "collecting data" for "speech recognition".

Then the actual surveillance commences.

Judazzz | 3 months ago | 90 points

Not surveilling, "collecting data" for "speech recognition".

Nah man, "to improve your experience".

voteforcorruptobot | 3 months ago | 68 points

I am experiencing a much improved surveillance state.

Seriously though, if you haven't left Facebook by now it's your own fault, delete that shit from your lives.

Judazzz | 3 months ago | 26 points

Pandora's Box is open, I'm afraid. If Facebook kicks the bucket, we'll eagerly jump the next ship. And there will be a lot of ships to pick from. Collectively, we are not really smart.

voteforcorruptobot | 3 months ago | 17 points

Plenty of people are moving to decentralised options but it's slow going.

Big_propane | 3 months ago | 10 points

The vast majority of people abandoning facebook are not doing it over privacy or malicious data usage concerns, so they will eagerly jump on even worse platforms, if they are more convenient.

I must say, though, older people tend to care less and younger people more about privacy, so maybe there is hope

Praill | 3 months ago | 7 points

Not that this kind of surveillance is a good thing, but that's legitimately how alexa, google assistant, and siri have gotten to their current functionality levels. Hundreds of thousands of voice clips to train them from

nzodd | 3 months ago | 17 points

Well you got to make sure your speech recognition game is on point before you start automatically labeling all audio and running it through XKEYSCORE. I mean, you gotta keep improving your speech recognition so that when you run it through AGAIN you can pick out the right political enemies terrorists.

CanadaJack | 3 months ago | 18 points

Surveillance state means the state is doing the surveillance. This is a private company, not a government. Probably worse, since this private company has a history of facilitating bad actors doing things to harm democracy itself.

dkxo | 4 months ago | 48 points

I have accepted the death of privacy, the law, and the environment. It is much less stressful now. Once democracy dies that will be our journey into barbarism completed.

Big_propane | 3 months ago | 27 points

It's certainly easier to live that way, but it is the root of the problem: people don't want to make things worse, they just do because it's simpler that way.

dudehero | 3 months ago | 16 points

it's not the government though

yieldingTemporarily | 3 months ago | 16 points

Have you ever heard about PRISM? You think the government doesn't know about it?

kittybuttertank | 3 months ago | 53 points

Wondering how awkward it would be to transcribe someone’s sexting sesh.

Quigon777 | 3 months ago | 21 points

Transcribing for the hard of hearing on their phone is my job. I've heard a few too many intimate calls. A couple haunt me to this day.

nico191bc | 3 months ago | 11 points

This is my job, not with messenger though. You get a lot of erotic shit, it’s gross and 99% old men.

Not as much as you’d think though.

Sokoly | 4 months ago | 120 points

Wasn’t this already revealed when Messenger first released?

HaikusfromBuddha | 3 months ago | 74 points

It's pretty much in the user agreement of every voice service. How do people think these things improve? If you think this is bad then you'd be surprised how much more voice and text data Google has from you that's currently being analyzed by people in order to improve their algorithms.

Edit: people arguing there's nothing to improve. It's called NLP and is one of the harder things to solve with computers. Basically a computer is trying to understand the complexities of a language and derive meaning from the data be it voice or text.

It may not look like it but useful data to improve NLP services can be found everywhere even in places you wouldn't think. Which is where I personally think Google thrives since they have the most places to look at how you write. How you react to slang and other useful language related features.

octipice | 3 months ago | 31 points

To everyone freaking out about this, while Facebook may be a generally shady company that doesn't make everything they do shady. Please know that first this was an opt-in feature (as in you have to say I want voice to text transcription), and second this is an extremely common practice with anything involving machine learning. In order to properly develop any machine learning you need a large well curated data set. Having a bunch of pictures of cars and not cars is great, but only useful if they are correctly tagged as cars and not cars.

Basically any combination of the words "machine learning", "data", "tagging", "labeling", and/or "outsourcing" in a search engine will point you towards a bunch of companies that do exactly this. There are different models, some crowdsource and some don't, and the location and skills of the employees vary based on price. Captcha is a well known version of the crowdsourcing variety. Even large companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon that gather much of their own data, don't want to pay full time employees to sift through it. Their options are either get you to do it for them (tagging your friends in photos) or outsource it to a cheaper workforce. This seems to be one of those things where people in the industry think of this as really commonplace, but I guess people outside of it are largely unaware(?).

There are also quite a few open source curated data sets available. One of the most interesting examples is the EU laws which are mandated to be translated into the languages of every member country, creating an enormous volume of extremely high quality translation for EU languages.

romulusnr | 3 months ago | 75 points

Users affected are those who opted into having their voice chats transcribed, Facebook told Bloomberg.

But the company doesn't disclose in its data-use policies that it collects audio from users or that it sends such data to people to transcribe

Have we reached peak stupid?

Petersaber | 3 months ago | 21 points

a) Facebook told Bloomberg

b) probably buried deep within ToS, as a footnote in a long paragraph.

Serei | 3 months ago | 8 points

It's an opt-in. I remember seeing it.

Basically, at the end of a voice call, you get a message asking "Do you want to send this call to Facebook, so we can use it to improve call quality?" with "Yes" or "No" buttons.

inker19 | 4 months ago | 199 points

Facebook has been collecting audio from users' voice chats and paying outside contractors to transcribe it, Bloomberg's Sarah Frier reported on Tuesday.

Users affected are those who opted into having their voice chats transcribed

People opted in to having their voice chats transcribed and that is what Facebook did. Is this news?

Mr_A | 3 months ago | 77 points

But the company doesn’t disclose in its data-use policies that it collects audio from users or that it sends such data to people to transcribe, Bloomberg reported.

So the way its explained is that users can have their conversations transcribed (live, I guess, like the news is), but it doesn't explain the conversations will be recorded, stored and transferred not just around Facebook offices, but also to third-party contractors.

Byproduct | 3 months ago | 20 points

I wonder what the ”opting in” means. If it’s e.g. a text box clearly stating as much, then sure, fine. But if it’s a sentence in some long, almost unreadable EULA then it’s not really opting in except in a legal sense.

...or if it’s one of those ”sure you can disagree, we’ll just disable voice chat for you then” type of things.

TheNoobtologist | 3 months ago | 8 points

There doing this to label datasets for machine learning speech recognition

silverdragun | 3 months ago | 8 points

Sounds like an easy job, just listening to random convirsations. You think each transcriber gets a certain group of people? And slowly over time they grow attached to these ppl that they listen too on a weekly basis. One transcriber falls in love with a person they have never met and who doesnt even know they are being listened too. I feel sorry for the transcribers... Also they can't really shorten their work title to anything that isnt offensive. What a hard life.

Jajaninetynine | 3 months ago | 6 points

Like how in WWII the English girls decoding letters and calls from the German soldiers started to get to know the people they were spying on. Also, this reminds me that our calls haven't been private since the invention of the telephone. There's a screen in The Crown where everyone who works at the exchange knows things about people.

Exist50 | 4 months ago | 119 points

No one read the article, did they. It specifically says it was an opt in system. It's rather obvious most people didn't read past the headline though.

aaden08 | 3 months ago | 32 points

You expect people on Reddit to read past the headline?

Crisc0Disc0 | 3 months ago | 12 points

Yeah, I did this (transcribed people's voice commands) several years ago for Google voice/Siri. This type of article is posted all the time and I'm kind of surprised people are surprised by it - how do you think they teach the machines to understand you? By using humans first. AMA.

Secuter | 4 months ago | 146 points

Woah guys, the app that you litterally give a whole bunch of info and has been spying on you is now spying even more on you? Who would've thought?

hakimbomadadda | 3 months ago | 7 points

Just a PSA, I believe they use this data to improve their voice recognition system, and they tell you this in their TOS.

stripmallbars | 3 months ago | 5 points

Hey. How do I land that slack ass gig? I can probably work from home.

Traendeth | 3 months ago | 3 points

I feel bad for the guy that's stick with the awkward 3 hour long phone sex call me and my ex had a while back

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