Facebook had human contractors ‘reviewing’ users’ Messenger voice chats

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Facebook says it has stopped feeding users’ audio chats to human reviewers for transcription, similar to what other Big Tech were recently caught doing. Facebook’s contractors were reportedly kept in the dark about their job.

The company “paused human review more than a week ago,” Facebook said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that the audio being reviewed was from Messenger users who opted in to having their voice chats transcribed to text by AI. The human transcribers were merely checking whether the AI transcriptions were correct, the company said.

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Monopoly? What monopoly? Facebook to consolidate empire by branding Instagram, WhatsApp

Contractors often caught snippets of intimate or “vulgar” chats, though the messages were anonymized, and they were not told why they were transcribing the audio, where it came from or how it was obtained, contractors told Bloomberg. Some said the uncertainty and apparent duplicity – Facebook doesn’t tell users third parties may review their audio – troubled them.

While the company admits it collects “content, communications and other information you provide [when you] message or communicate with others,” there is no mention in its data use policy of humans processing the information. Instead, it’s Facebook’s “systems” that are supposed to “automatically process content and communications you and others provide to analyze context and what’s in them.” Even the list of third parties who might potentially receive users’ information doesn’t explicitly include human transcription teams, only “vendors and service providers who support our business” by “analyzing how our products are used.”

Further adding to contractors’ concerns about eavesdropping on users’ private messages is the fact that Facebook forbids at least one outsourcing firm from referring to them by name. Santa Monica, California-based TaskUs instead refers to one of its largest and most important clients only by the code-name “Prism” – which is, ironically, also the name of the NSA initiative exposed by Edward Snowden that installed backdoors in popular online platforms like Google, Skype, Twitter, and…Facebook.

TaskUs contractors also moderate content for policy violations, screen political ads, and work on “election preparation,” an ominous term Bloomberg opts not to define but which has previously coincided with mass deplatforming of political accounts in the months preceding elections. Facebook’s content-moderation contracting practices were exposed earlier this year after ex-contractors from outsourcing firm Cognizant complained that the work was giving them PTSD, leading them to drown their traumas in drug use and casual sex, and shaking their beliefs in the “official” versions of historical events like 9/11 and the Holocaust. Those employees, too, were forbidden from referring to Facebook by its given name.

Facebook added the AI transcription function to Messenger in 2015 and claims it is switched off by default. Its documentation, however, reveals that only one participant in a chat needs to opt in for the audio to be transcribed.

After similar practices were exposed by Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Siri, all three have promised to end the human eavesdropping – or at least give users the option of avoiding it. Apple has reportedly ended human “grading” of Siri recordings until a future software update gives users the option of participating, while Amazon has added an opt-out setting and Google has promised to suspend human review…in Europe, for at least three months.

Biden says Obama White House was ‘scandal-free’… Here’re some of the BIGGER ones he drew a blank on

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The White House had “not one whisper of scandal” under President Barack Obama – that’s what former VP Joe Biden would have one believe as a selling point for his presidential run. Wait, is that the sound of fact-checkers typing?

“The thing I’m proudest of,” Biden said on Friday of his time at Obama’s right hand, “Not one single whisper of scandal…not one, and that’s because of Barack.”

Biden was speaking on ‘The View,’ a day after announcing his campaign for the presidency in 2020. The studio audience cheered and host Joy Behar chimed in, calling Barack Obama “amazing.” Of course, Biden is hardly going to besmirch his former partner on live television, and the view of presidents past tends to soften once they’ve left office.

But one has to wonder if the busy liberal fact-checkers would want to correct the Democrats’ favorite candidate, as his administration racked up its fair share of scandals during Obama’s eight years at the helm. Here’re three of the biggest:

Attack of the drones

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The escalation of drone warfare and the targeted killings of American citizens are some of the biggest and blackest marks on the Obama administration. Although Obama was not the first US president to deploy drones on the battlefield, he was a drone enthusiast from the outset, describing the killer robots as “effective,” “indispensable,” and “the only game in town,”and personally authorizing more strikes in his first year than George W. Bush did in his entire eight years in office.

The whole world became a battlefield. Drone strikes targeted enemies and innocents alike in Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Of these strike zones, only Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria were active battlefields. At least four American citizens were killed, including a 16-year-old boy in Yemen, struck two weeks after his father.

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A grand total of 563 strikes killed between 384 and 807 civilians in non-battlefield countries, according to figures from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Technically, it was all legal, of course – after the law in question was written by executive branch lawyers and hidden from Congress and the public.

Fast and Furious

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This Fast and Furious had nothing to do with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. Instead, it was a ‘gunwalking’ scandal that Obama and then-Attorney General Eric Holder desperately tried to keep a lid on. In 2009, the Department of Justice came up with the amazingly bright idea of letting firearms – including .50 caliber rifles powerful enough to rip apart an engine block – fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, supposedly as a means of tracking them.

The plan backfired. Federal agents lost track of most of the 2,000 guns, which wound up being used in murders on both sides of the border, including the slaying of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in 2010.

ALSO ON RT.COM’Fast & Furious’ cartel hitman who killed Border Patrol agent arrested in MexicoBut the Obama administration was non-apologetic. Instead, when the Republican-controlled House kicked up a stink, Holder sought to withhold documents relating to the scandal under subpoena, and Obama later withheld them under executive privilege when Holder was cited for contempt of Congress.

Years later, Mexican authorities are still finding ‘Fast and Furious’ guns at cartel crime scenes. One of the 19 weapons found at the hideout of notorious drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman in 2016 was a gun knowingly allowed into Mexico by the Justice Department.

Spy games – allied edition

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As a Senator, Barack Obama condemned the Bush-era Patriot Act for violating the rights of American citizens. Once in office, he renewed the act, allowing intelligence agencies to carry out ‘roving wiretaps’ on American citizens and collect billions of phone call and text message records every year.

Much has been written about Obama’s expansion of the surveillance state, and his administration’s scattergun use of the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers like NSA contractor Edward Snowden, but perhaps most personally embarrassing was the revelation – via WikiLeaks – that the US government spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls.

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In an angry exchange with Obama, Merkel compared the US National Security Agency (NSA) to the dreaded East German Stasi. Suitably chastised, did Obama move to disarm the US’ surveillance apparatus before leaving office?

Nope. Days after Obama’s January 2017 farewell speech, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed an order giving the NSA additional powers to share intercepted communications with the US’s 16 other intelligence agencies. These communications include internet traffic intercepted through the NSA’s dragnet ‘PRISM’ program, and phone, email, and satellite transmissions gathered abroad.

When it comes to totting up the scandals of the Obama years, honorable mention goes to the Benghazi attack that killed ambassador Chris Stevens, Hillary Clinton’s email server scandal, arming jihadist rebels in Syria, and if Republicans are to be believed, authorizing an FBI spying operation on the Trump campaign in 2016.

But Joe Biden would have the voters believe that it is Donald Trump who “will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation.”

ALSO ON RT.COMGrope & change: Would America become one nation under Joe Biden?

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