Technology: Facebook's human-AI blend for audio transcription is now facing privacy scrutiny in Europe - PressFrom - US
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TechnologyFacebook's human-AI blend for audio transcription is now facing privacy scrutiny in Europe

14:30  14 august  2019
14:30  14 august  2019 Source:   techcrunch.com

Sources: Facebook to settle FTC privacy allegations, adopt new policies

Sources: Facebook to settle FTC privacy allegations, adopt new policies The Federal Trade Commission is set to announce Wednesday that Facebook has agreed to a sweeping settlement of allegations it mishandled user privacy and pay roughly $5 billion, two people briefed on the matter said. As part of the settlement, Facebook will agree to create a board committee on privacy and will agree to new executive certifications on user privacy, the people said.

Facebook ’ s decision to pause its audio transcribing comes following scrutiny of human review programs from Apple, Amazon, and Google. Facebook says that users who had voice chats transcribed had opted in, and that the transcriptions were used to make sure Facebook ’ s AI

For those that opted-in to the feature, Facebook ' s contractors had the ability to listen in on those conversations in order to provide more accurate transcriptions . The human contractors were in place to verify that Facebook ' s artificial intelligence had correctly transcribed an audio recording.

Facebook's lead privacy regulator in Europe is now asking the company for detailed information about the operation of a voice-to-text feature in Facebook's Messenger app and how it complies with EU law.

Yesterday Bloomberg reported that Facebook uses human contractors to transcribe app users' audio messages -- yet its privacy policy makes no clear mention of the fact that actual people might listen to your recordings.

A page on Facebook's help center also includes a "note" saying "Voice to Text uses machine learning" -- but does not say the feature is also powered by people working for Facebook listening in.

Alexa privacy fears spark questions for Amazon in Europe

Alexa privacy fears spark questions for Amazon in Europe A European privacy watchdog is taking a keen interest in what happens to personal data collected through Alexa.

But the Alexa app now includes a disclaimer in the settings menu that flags the fact human ears may in fact be listening, per the report. It’ s not clear whether any of this will wash with regulators in Europe . We take customer privacy seriously and continuously review our practices and procedures.

PARIS— Facebook Inc. is confronting a wave of probes in Europe into its privacy practices, escalating tensions between European authorities and a handful of U. S -based technology giants. Government privacy watchdogs from France, Spain and Italy have in recent weeks joined a group of regulators

A spokesperson for Irish Data Protection Commission told us: “Further to our ongoing engagement with Google, Apple and Microsoft in relation to the processing of personal data in the context of the manual transcription of audio recordings, we are now seeking detailed information from Facebook on the processing in question and how Facebook believes that such processing of data is compliant with their GDPR obligations.”

Bloomberg's report follows similar revelations about AI assistant technologies offered by other tech giants, including Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft -- which have also attracted attention from European privacy regulators in recent weeks.

What this tells us is that the hype around AI voice assistants is still glossing over a far less high tech backend. Even as lashings of machine learning marketing guff have been used to cloak the 'mechanical turk' components (i.e. humans) required for the tech to live up to the claims.

Facebook Paid Hundreds of Contractors to Transcribe Users’ Audio

Facebook Paid Hundreds of Contractors to Transcribe Users’ Audio 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. © Photographer: Johannes Berg/Bloomberg The Facebook Inc. application is displayed on an Apple Inc. iPhone in an arranged photograph taken in New York, U.S., on Thursday, July 26, 2018. Facebook shares plunged 19 percent Thursday after second-quarter sales and user growth missed Wall Street estimates.

Facebook has recently introduced a way for European users to opt out of its invitation program. The legal landscape surrounding privacy in Europe is substantially different Busy eBay merchants have a new way to fulfill orders. Now sellers can avoid packing and lugging sold goods to the post office.

Facebook is working to spread its face -matching tools even as it faces heightened scrutiny from Now , Facebook was reintroducing the service as part of an update of its user permission process in Europe . European regulators also have concerns about Facebook ’ s facial recognition practices.

This is a very old story indeed. To wit: A full decade ago, a UK startup called Spinvox, which had claimed to have advanced voice recognition technology for converting voicemails to text messages, was reported to be leaning very heavily on call centers in South Africa and the Philippines... staffed by, yep, actual humans.

Returning to present day 'cutting-edge' tech, following Bloomberg's report Facebook said it suspended human transcriptions earlier this month -- joining Apple and Google in halting manual reviews of audio snippets for their respective voice AIs. (Amazon has since added an opt out to the Alexa app's settings.)

We asked Facebook where in the Messenger app it had been informing users that human contractors might be used to transcribe their voice chats/audio messages; and how it collected Messenger users' consent to this form of data processing -- prior to suspending human reviews.

Facebook also hired human contractors to listen to audio from its Messenger app

Facebook also hired human contractors to listen to audio from its Messenger app It claims it stopped ‘more than a week ago’

This group is for those people that use a Amazon Echo or Echo Dot and would like to help Amazon has tweaked the settings for its Alexa voice AI to allow users to opt out of their voice recordings being manually reviewed by the company’ s human workers.

Researchers from the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research lab (FAIR) recently made an unexpected discovery while trying to improve chatbots. The bots — known as “dialog agents” — were creating their own language — well, kinda. Using machine learning algorithms, dialog agents were left

The company did not respond to our questions. Instead a spokesperson provided us with the following statement: "Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago.”

Facebook also described the audio snippets that it sent to contractors as masked and de-identified; said they were only collected when users had opted in to transcription on Messenger; and were only used for improving the transcription performance of the AI.

It also reiterated a long-standing rebuttal by the company to user concerns about general eavesdropping by Facebook, saying it never listens to people's microphones without device permission nor without explicit activation by users.

How Facebook gathers permission to process data is a key question, though.

The company has recently, for example, used a manipulative consent flow in order to nudge users in Europe to switch on facial recognition technology -- rolling back its previous stance, adopted in response to earlier regulatory intervention, of switching the tech off across the bloc.

Facebook paid people to transcribe Messenger voice chats

Facebook paid people to transcribe Messenger voice chats Add Facebook to the list of tech firms who've halted their audio transcriptions over privacy concerns. The company confirmed to Bloomberg that contractors had been transcribing Messenger voice chats to determine if AI had correctly interpreted the messages, but that it had "paused" the practice over a week ago in the wake of worries about other companies' transcription policies. The data was anonymized and came solely from people who'd volunteered for transcriptions, Facebook added. The problem, according to Bloomberg's sources, is the lack of transparency. Contractors from TaskUs reportedly weren't told where the audio came from or why they were transcribing it.

Up until now , I have not found a transcription service that matches the type of intuitive online interface, task flexibility or After you have taken an exam to prove accuracy with transcribing audio and following style guidelines, you’ll be given short chunks of audio to transcribe , and you can begin

Transcription software is invaluable if you need to convert an audio or video recording into usable text. Types of Transcription . The cheapest (and probably most accurate) way to transcribe an audio or If you want to avoid the transcription services entirely—for privacy reasons or to save on

So a lot rests on how exactly Facebook has described the data processing at any point it is asking users to consent to their voice messages being reviewed by humans (assuming it's relying on consent as its legal basis for processing this data).

Bundling consent into general T&Cs for using the product is also unlikely to be compliant under EU privacy law, given that the bloc's General Data Protection Regulation requires consent to be purpose limited, as well as fully informed and freely given.

If Facebook is relying on legitimate interests to process Messenger users' audio snippets in order to enhance its AI's performance it would need to balance its own interests against any risk to people's privacy.

Voice AIs are especially problematic in this respect because audio recordings may capture the personal data of non-users too -- given that people in the vicinity of a device (or indeed a person on the other end of the phone line who's leaving you a message) could have their personal data captured without ever having had the chance to consent to Facebook contractors getting to hear it.

Leaks of Google Assistant snippets to the Belgian press recently highlighted both the sensitive nature of recordings and the risk of reidentification posed by such recordings -- with journalists able to identify some of the people in the recordings.

Facebook paid contractors to transcribe users' audio: Bloomberg

Facebook paid contractors to transcribe users' audio: Bloomberg Facebook paid contractors to transcribe users' audio: Bloomberg

Facebook Will Shutter Onavo VPN App Following Intense Privacy Scrutiny . Increased accuracy when it comes to speech transcription is definitely a nice perk, but the end game for Microsoft is to actually be able to understand the words that are coming out of someone’ s mouth.

Facebook ’ s admission to the UK parliament this week that it had unearthed unquantified thousands of dark fake ads after investigating fakes bearing the face and name of well-known consumer advice personality, Martin Lewis, underscores the massive challenge for its platform on this front.

Multiple press reports have also suggested contractors employed by tech giants are routinely overhearing intimate details captured via a range of products that include the ability to record audio and stream this personal data to the cloud for processing.

Facebook listened to users' conversations: report.
Facebook has paid hundreds of contractors to listen to and transcribe snippets of users' conversations, US media reported on Tuesday, amid heightened scrutiny of the social network's data collection practices. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment from AFP. The contractors were testing the ability of the social network's artificial intelligence to interpret messages, and the only users affected were those on Facebook Messenger app who had opted to have their voice chats transcribed.

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