Facebook Inc. has been paying hundreds of outside contractors to transcribe clips of audio from users of its services, according to people with knowledge of the work. The work has rattled the contract employees, who are not told where the audio was recorded or how it was obtained -- only to transcribe it, said the people, who requested anonymity for fear of losing their jobs. They're hearing Facebook users' conversations, sometimes with vulgar content, but do not know why Facebook needs them transcribed, the people said. Facebook confirmed that it had been transcribing users' audio and said it will no longer do so, following scrutiny into other companies. "Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago," the company said Tuesday.
Facebook has become the latest company to admit that human contractors listened to recordings of users without their knowledge, a practice the company now says has been "paused". Citing contractors who worked on the project, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday that the company hired people to listen to audio conversations carried out on Facebook Messenger. The practice involved users who had opted in Messenger to have their voice chats transcribed, the company said. The contractors were tasked with re-transcribing the conversations in order to gauge the accuracy of the automatic transcription tool. "Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago," a Facebook spokesperson told the Guardian.
Yes, someone might listen to your Alexa conversations someday. A Bloomberg report has detailed how Amazon employs thousands of full-timers and contractors from around the world to review audio clips from Echo devices. Apparently, these workers transcribe and annotate recordings, which they then feed back into the software to make Alexa smarter than before. The process helps beef up the voice AI's understanding of human speech, especially for non-English-speaking countries or for places with distinctive regional colloquialisms. In French, for instance, an Echo speaker could hear avec sa ("with his" or "with her") as "Alexa" and treat it as a wake word.
Tens of millions of people use smart speakers and their voice software to play games, find music or trawl for trivia. Millions more are reluctant to invite the devices and their powerful microphones into their homes out of concern that someone might be listening. Inc. employs thousands of people around the world to help improve the Alexa digital assistant powering its line of Echo speakers. The team listens to voice recordings captured in Echo owners' homes and offices. The recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software as part of an effort to eliminate gaps in Alexa's understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands.
Amazon's Echo speakers have a broadcast feature that will help you send a message to family members that might be scattered around the house. If you have an Amazon Echo product, you aren't the only person privy to your private conversations. Thousands of people across the globe are employed by Amazon.com to listen to Echo recordings, transcribe and annotate them and feed them back to the software so that Alexa can better grasp human speech, according to a report from Bloomberg. The employees – ranging from Boston to India – signed nondisclosure agreements barring them to speak publicly about the program. According to Bloomberg, they work nine hours per day, with each reviewer going through as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift.