August 13, 2019

WHAT IS TO BE DONE ABOUT FACEBOOK? Facebook Paid Contractors to Transcribe Users’ Audio Chats:

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.

Facebook confirmed that it had been transcribing users’ audio and said it will no longer do so, following scrutiny into other companies. “Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” the company said Tuesday.

As Christine Rosen of Commentary wrote in her lengthy June article titled “What Is To Be Done About Facebook?” This is a standard pattern for Facebook when caught:

From the company’s earliest days, Facebook’s leaders have adopted a remarkably consistent approach to the exposure of problems and missteps: a mercenary variation of the “ask for forgiveness, not permission” strategy. Any time the company does something irresponsible or privacy-violating, Zuckerberg issues an apology on Facebook and Sandberg appears on television programs to reassure an anxious world that Facebook will do better. As Zeynep Tufekci observed in Wired: “By 2008, Zuckerberg had written only four posts on Facebook’s blog: Every single one of them was an apology or an attempt to explain a decision that had upset users.”

But he kept doing it because it worked—until 2018. That year, Apple booted Facebook off of its app store for violating Apple’s privacy rules. Facebook had used an app to facilitate a research study wherein Facebook paid teenagers and some adults to let the company monitor everything they did on their mobile phones. That same year, there was a major hack of Facebook, this one affecting approximately 29 million Facebook users; the company issued its standard sorry-we-promise-to-do-better statement and changed nothing about its core business model.

Around the same time, as TechCrunch reported, Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives secretly “disappeared” their sent messages from their accounts, removing years’ worth of Facebook correspondence from other users’ mailboxes with no warning. Once caught out, the company claimed that it had done so for vaguely defined security reasons, but the lack of transparency by a company that insists that everyone should share everything was seen as hypocritical by many Facebook users.

Also in June, Peggy Noonan wrote, “Overthrow the Prince of Facebook...Break them up. Break them in two, in three; regulate them. Declare them to be what they’ve so successfully become: once a pleasure, now a utility. It all depends on Congress, which has been too stupid to move in te past and is too stupid to move competently now. That’s what’s slowed those of us who want reform, knowing how badly they’d do it. Yet now I find myself thinking: I don’t care. Do it incompetently, but do something.”

Somebody should write a book about this stuff.

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