Facebook has pressed pause on its practice of permitting contractors to listen to private Messenger conversations without the owner’s knowledge after admitting for the first time that it employed people to review archived audio to check the effectiveness of its transcription tools.
This followed reports on Bloomberg News yesterday which broke the story, prompting a swift response from Facebook which said it had halted the practice ‘more than a week ago’ in the wake of similar incidents concerning Apple and Google.
The social network asserts that the practice was reserved for users who had opted into having their voice chats transcribed but concedes that it did not make clear that human employees would be listening in as part of that process.
“Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Guardian.
This may not be the end of the matter, however, with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office opening an investigation into whether the affair breached GDPR protocols, saying: "We are aware of privacy concerns relating to voice assistant programs and will be assessing the available information," before adding that it would now seek to "... ascertain the full facts and any possible risks to the rights of UK residents."
In April Facebook announced a 'fundamental shift' in the way it operates by placing privacy front and centre of all its products.