Thursday, August 15, 2019

Facebook and Microsoft Contractors Listen to Recordings, Too

Sarah Frier:

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.

Joseph Cox (via Jason Koebler, Hacker News):

The contractor said they are expected to work on around 200 pieces of data an hour, and noted they’ve heard personal and sensitive information in Cortana recordings. A document obtained by Motherboard corroborates that for some work contractors need to complete at least 200 tasks an hour.

The pay for this work varies. One contract obtained by Motherboard shows pay at $12 an hour, with the possibility of contractors being able to reach $13 an hour as a bonus. A contract for a different task shows $14 an hour, with a potential bonus of $15 an hour.


After Motherboard reported that contractors were listening to some Skype calls made using the service’s translator function, Microsoft updated its privacy policy and other pages to explicitly include that humans may listen to collected audio.


3 Comments RSS · Twitter

Seems like a solution to this would be to slice the recordings up so nobody ever hears more than one or two words in a row, and nobody gets access to multiple clips from a single recording.

Might not allow some of the things they want to listen to the audio for, though.

Not sure how a query or request could be parsed if no-one gets to hear more than two words at a time

>Not sure how a query or request could be parsed if no-one gets to hear more than two words at a time

I don't think these people are directly answering requests in most cases, I think they're training speech recognition software. For that, I would assume that transcribing them two words at a time would be fine.

For translation, it's going to be much harder. It's the same problem, you want people to translate texts in order to train translation software, but you can't translate text two words at a time.

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