Facebook ‘labels’ posts by hand, posing privacy questions


Facebook confirmed labelers in Timisoara, Romania and Manila, the Philippines are involved in the same project.

Among Facebook’s other labeling projects, one worker in Hyderabad for outsourcing vendor Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp said he and at least 500 colleagues look for sensitive topics or profane language in Facebook videos.

The aim is to train an automated Facebook tool that enables advertisers to avoid sponsoring videos that are, for example, adult or political, Facebook said. Cognizant did not respond to a request for comment.

Another application of labeling involved the social network’s Marketplace shopping feature, where it automated category recommendations for new listings by first having labelers and product experts categorize some existing listings, Facebook’s Mathur said.


Facebook users are not offered the chance to opt out of their data being labeled.

At Wipro, the posts being examined include not only public posts but also those that are shared privately to a limited set of a user’s friends. That ensures the sample reflects the range of activity on Facebook and Instagram, said Karen Courington, director of product support operations at Facebook.

Facebook’s data policy does not explicitly mention manual analysis.

“We provide information and content to vendors and service providers who support our business, such as by providing technical infrastructure services, analyzing how our products are used, providing customer service, facilitating payments or conducting surveys,” the policy states.

Europe’s GDPR also requires companies delete user data upon request. Facebook said it has technology to routinely sync labeled posts with both deletion requests and changes to content privacy settings.

Facebook and other companies are testing techniques to curtail the need for outsourced labeling, in part to analyze more data faster and cheaper. For instance, AI training data for news feed rankings and photo descriptions for the blind came from hashtags on Instagram posts, Facebook’s Mathur said.

“We try to minimize the amount of things we send out,” he said.

Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Hyderabad and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine in Frankfurt; Editing by Patrick Graham, Jonathan Weber and Edwina GibbsOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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