According to a recent report by Bloomberg, obtained from anonymous employees of a transcribing company, Facebook listens to their users’ conversations over their messaging app and then has a company transcribe them for an unknown reason.
Facebook said in response to the article that they have stopped listening to people’s conversations a week ago following similar action taken by other large tech companies like Amazon and Apple after numerous reports on the state of their various AI home devices. While it’s unclear what Facebook was using the transcriptions for, tech companies have said they use the recordings to improve their AI listening capabilities to make them be able to more accurately understand what’s being said.
The report on Facebook recording and transcribing people’s conversations has sparked calls from Congress members of both parties to try and stop these tech companies from continuing these practices. It is unclear how likely these measures, or what they would be, are to pass, as recent attempts to pass them have stalled at the bill creation phase.
The news from Facebook and other tech companies has come to a head against governments in both the US and EU. Several weeks ago Facebook agreed to pay a $5 billion fine to the Federal Trade Commission in the US and $100 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission for violating consumer privacy. The EU has fined Google several times with antitrust complaints for several billion dollars over several years and may be getting ready to fine Facebook for several billion due to privacy concerns.
Despite the large fines imposed on these tech companies, they appear to do little to put a dent in their profits or fully dissuade them from carrying out practices that violate antitrust or privacy laws. While the fines have been quite large, relatively speaking, they do little to dent the several hundred billion that Google and Facebook are both worth. The stock prices for Facebook rose after the announcement of the $5 billion fine on the tech giant, reportedly netting its CEO Mark Zuckerberg $1 billion.