Facebook will pay for users’ voice recordings after it was caught listening to and transcribing private Messenger chats to improve its speech recognition software

  • The platform will pay up to $5 via PayPal for various voice recordings
  • Recordings include phrases like ‘Hey Portal’ and first names of Facebook friends
  • Facebook says that it won’t link the recordings to one’s account
  • The policy follows reports from last year that it was listening to audio recordings 
  • Facebook paid third-party contractors to analyze recordings for accuracy 

Facebook says it will start paying users to harvest their voice data for training speech recognition software after it was caught analyzing their speech without permission last year.

In a program called ‘Pronunciations’, participants will be payed a small sum, only up to $5, to use the company’s market research app Viewpoints for recording various words and phrases that the company will then leverage to train its speech recognition AI.

That voice data will be used to improve products like Portal, which is Facebook’s smart display that can be used for video-calling among other things and can be activated with one’s voice.

Facebook Viewpoints is a market research initiative that invites approved users to take surveys in exchange for points, which can later be traded in for cash on PayPal

Facebook Viewpoints is a market research initiative that invites approved users to take surveys in exchange for points, which can later be traded in for cash on PayPal

In the program, participants, who must be at least 18-years-old, will have to utter specific phrases like ‘Hey Portal’ and also say the first names of 10 of their friends on Facebook. 

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For each ‘set’ of prompts participants will receive 200 points. They are able to cash out once point totals reach 1,000 and $5 will be paid via PayPal.

Facebook says that the company won’t link voice recordings with participants’ Facebook accounts or names and that the data will be used anonymously. 

WHAT IS FACEBOOK VIEWPOINTS?

Facebook Viewpoints is a new market research program that will give users points in exchange for completing surveys. 

Users will be able to trade in points for cash deposits to their PayPal account.

 The first survey is focused on ‘well-being’ and is estimated to take around 15 minutes.

Facebook says the data collected will be used to improve their subsidiaries and will not be sold to third parties. 

It also says that it won’t share the data with other parties, including its other services, without user permission. 

The program marks a departure from previous practices from Facebook which was caught harvesting and listening to voice recordings of users without their express permission this past summer.

Specifically, Facebook was paying third-party contractors to listen in on voice commands and check whether its artificial intelligence correctly interpreted the messages. 

A string of reports last year revealed that Facebook was just one of many major tech companies engaging in that practice.  

Among the other devices found to be recording users were Apple’s Homepod, Amazon’s wildly popular smart speaker, Alexa, the Google Home, and devices using Microsoft’s Cortana assistant. 

Devices capturing audio snippets regularly harvested data that most might consider private, including sex, private conversations, business, and even medical information according to reports from whistle blowers. 

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