For the past few years, Facebook has been mired with controversy concerning the way they handle their users’ private information. The biggest hit was the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which uncovered not just how the social media giant was selling private information—a clear breach of privacy—but also just how big a hand it played in getting the likes of Donald Trump elected. (Read: The creepy way Facebook gets all your information)
If the fact that a single website has so much influence it ushered in the rise of the alt right and got populists elected doesn’t scare you, then this might: Facebook has been paying contractual workers to transcribe audio chats. These workers have no idea why, either. “They’re hearing Facebook users’ conversations, sometimes with vulgar content, but do not know why Facebook needs them transcribed,” writes the Bloomberg report on the matter.”
The report also notes that the company has long denied listening in on calls to collect information and tailor ads for their users. Apparently, it “only accesses users’ microphone if the user has given our app permission and if they are actively using a specific feature that requires audio (like voice messaging features.)” However, the company has never disclosed that to its users, and it still hasn’t disclosed exactly what it does with that information.
If this is making you want to delete your Messenger app, we totally get why. Ever since it admitted to transcribing audio chats, Facebook has said that it has suspended the practice. Still, it’s a bit hard to trust that this is true, or that the company won’t pick it back up once the heat isn’t on it anymore. Be careful of picking alternatives, though: WhatsApp is now owned by the tech giant (and has been instrumental in lynchings). You’re better off picking apps that aren’t connected to the giant at all, like Viber, Telegram, or Wire.
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