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Facebook quizzed by watchdog for listening to user audio

Facebook paid contractors to transcribe audio clips from users, reports say.

Facebook risks another spat with European Union privacy watchdogs after Bloomberg reported that the social-media giant paid contractors to transcribe clips of audio from users of its services.

The Irish Data Protection Commission said it’s “seeking detailed information from Facebook on the processing in question” after the company confirmed it had been transcribing audio from users in the Messenger app. The Irish regulator, which takes the lead in overseeing Facebook in Europe, said it’s already looking at similar data processing by Google, Apple and Microsoft Corp.

“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” obligations under the EU’s privacy rules, the Irish regulator said in an emailed statement.

The company didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the Irish review. It previously confirmed that it had been transcribing users’ audio and said it will no longer do so, following scrutiny into other companies.

Facebook shares were down 2.2% at 10:02 am in New York trading., Google, Apple and now Facebook have come under fire for collecting audio snippets from consumer computing devices and subjecting those clips to human review, a practice that critics say invades privacy.

Bloomberg first reported in April that Amazon had a team of thousands of workers around the world listening to Alexa audio requests with the goal of improving the software, and that similar human review was used for Apple’s Siri and Alphabet’s Google Assistant. Apple and Google have since said they no longer engage in the practice and Amazon said it will let users opt out of human review.

It’s not just the Irish regulator, where Google, Apple and Facebook have their main EU base, which has started digging deeper into possible privacy violations. Officials in the US and elsewhere in Europe are also probing processing by human reviewers employed to listen to voice commands recorded by digital assistants.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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Soon these big tech giants along with the government(s) will not only be able to use facial recognition software to know who you are, and the cellphone tracking to know where you are, assisted by the itch of most citizens to provide the first scoop of what scoop of ice-cream they are eating and location, couple that with voice in-listening and online tracking, there will be no place to hide. Then the only thing that will be left, will be to read one’s thoughts and given recent reports out of MIT Media Labs, we are pretty close to scanning heads for electrical signals that can be ‘written upon a screen’ and read or activate machines (e.g. computers). Thereafter, we might just submit to be lab rats and subject ourselves to Magnetic Resolution Imaging that can even read our heads for what adverts are effective – our thoughts will be known at all times, even the most private. This Orwelian scene is not that much of an unreality anymore, and it is aided mostly by private citizen’s desire to be ‘famous’ and live ‘historic’ lives even is that is to tell us that they are naked somewhere ‘private.’!!!

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