Facebook Contractors Resume Listening to ‘Hey Portal’

Facebook Contractors Resume Listening to 'Hey Portal'

HIGHLIGHTS
  • Facebook “paused human review of audio” around August
  • Company hired contractors to transcribe private voice messages
  • Portal is now reinstating human audio transcriptions

Facebook, which last month said it stopped using humans to review and transcribe users’ voice messages, will resume that practice for some audio collected from its Portal video-calling device.

Facebook “paused human review of audio” around August. Bloomberg reported at the time the company hired contractors to transcribe private voice messages sent via its Messenger app. In that case, users had not been alerted to the possibility that their communications might be subject to human review. It was also unclear at the time that some of the clips Facebook had been collecting were coming from Portal.

Facebook confirmed Wednesday that it was indeed collecting audio from Portal users who make a request from the device using the command “Hey Portal.” By default, those commands were recorded and stored on Facebook servers, and some of them were transcribed by contractors working with the company to improve the software algorithms used to understand the commands, according to Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s head of hardware.

That practice was paused last month at the same time Messenger stopped using humans to transcribe messages.