On Wednesday, Ireland’s Data Protection Commission said the lead regulator of Facebook Inc in the European Union is in quest of information.
This probe concerns on how the company managed data during the manual transcription of users’ audio recordings.
The DPC, Facebook’s lead EU regulator, already has eight individuals that investigate the U.S. social media giant.
In addition, there are two others working on WhatsApp subsidiary and into Facebook-owned Instagram.
In an emailed statement, the commission indicated, “our ongoing engagement with Google, Apple and Microsoft is in relation to the process of personal data in the context of manual transcription of audio recordings.”
It also added, “We are now seeking detailed information from Facebook on the processing in question and how Facebook believes that such processing of data is compliant with their GDPR obligations.”
Regulators have the power to execute fines for violations under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) privacy rules.
It is up to 4% of a company’s global revenue or 20 million euros ($22 million), whichever is higher.
In a tweet, Democratic U.S. Senator Ed Markey said, “It’s appalling to learn that Facebook has been collecting and sharing audio recordings of its users.”
He also added that the company “should stop altogether and pledge never to resume invading users’ privacy in this manner.”
Meanwhile, a Republican Senator, Josh Hawley asked if the practice disrupts the terms of Facebook’s $5 billion future agreement. This is a privacy settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.
Facebook to Transcribe Audio Messages
Recently, Facebook carried out human review of private audio from its Messenger app.
This is in order to progress artificial intelligence systems to set out accurately. On Wednesday, the company said there was no effect on EU users.
The audio scraps in question were disguised to avoid revealing anyone’s identity. The company also never listened to people’s microphones without explicit activation.
In an email, a representative said the practice was common in the industry.
The representative added, “Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago.”
Facebook’s privacy practices has faced extensive criticism from lawmakers and regulators.
On Tuesday, the company also received renewed criticism after news reports stated that Facebook used outside contractors to transcribe the clips.
Facebook Unveils New Privacy Features
Elsewhere, Facebook announced an improvement to its privacy system. The change aims to progress clarity when it comes to setting post visibility.
The company is in further research of a simplified privacy model which comprises two group types, the public and private.
A public group lets anybody see who the members are, along with all the posts shared there. Meanwhile, private groups limit the visibility of members and posts outside the group.
Facebook stated, “We also heard that people wanted more control over how their groups can be discovered.”
The social media giant also added, “So now admins will be able to clearly choose whether or not the group can be found in search and other places.”
Facebook has been investing heavily in protecting Facebook groups from harm.
The company employs a specialized safety team and AI to proactively distinguish bad content before appearing for too many users.
The company has also been emerging new resources for group admins. This is to help them expand privacy and moderate content.