Facebook and Microsoft make changes as scrutiny of AI training methods continues

Facebook and Microsoft make changes as scrutiny of AI training methods continues

Facebook is the latest company to admit to paying contractors to listen to audio recordings of its services users, with hundreds of outside workers transcribing the clips, according to Bloomberg.

Anonymous contractors told Bloomberg that they were not told the source of the audio, or why Facebook wanted it transcribed, only to transcribe the sometimes vulgar conversations of Facebook users. The Irish Data Protection Commission, which has faced its own criticism for failing to enforce GDPR against tech giants, has said it is examining the company’s actions to determine possible violations.

The company admitted to the practice, and said “Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago.” The company said the messages were anonymized, and that they were taken from users chose to have voice chats in Facebook’s Messenger app transcribed. The purpose of the human transcription was to check the job done by Facebook’s artificial intelligence transcription service.

U.S.-based outsourcing firm TaskUs carried out at least some of the audio reviews, in addition to its work reviewing content potentially in violation of use policies, such as screening political ads. The company confirmed that Facebook instructed it to pause the transcription job “over a week ago.”

Microsoft, meanwhile, has updated its privacy policy to acknowledge the review of recordings from Skype Translator users or any hypothetical Cortana users by human employees or contractors, Vice Motherboard reports. Pages for the privacy policy of each service, as well as other pages on Microsoft’s website, have been updated.

The practice was reported by Vice Motherboard last week, following similar revelations about human review by Apple, Google, and Amazon.

“We realized, based on questions raised recently, that we could do a better job specifying that humans sometimes review this content,” a spokesperson for Microsoft told Motherboard.

Microsoft also provides a dedicated online tool for users to delete audio recordings made of them.

Companies beyond tech giants are also under increasing scrutiny for their AI training practices, and proposed legislation in California would require companies to collect written consent before storing and annotating data from smart speakers.

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