It’s not going to get any easier for Libra, the digital currency Facebook is working hard to release in 2020. Many of the concerns around the new token center around Facebook’s shady history, and a new revelation isn’t likely to help their mission.
Bloomberg revealed on August 14 that Facebook had hired third party contractors to listen to and transcribe user audio captured by their Messenger application. This came from anonymous testimonies from the contractors, who feared losing their jobs if they were found ratting out the social media giant.
While users had technically agreed to have their audio recorded, it was unclear in terms of service that Facebook would outsource any access to it. The contractors also revealed that they did not know the purpose of their task, leaving open the question of what exactly Facebook was doing with the audio.
The Irish Data Protection Commission, Europe’s leader in monitoring Facebook, immediately announced it would investigate the accusation.
In its defense, Facebook claimed the contractors were verifying if artificial intelligence was correctly interpreting the audio recorded by users, with the aim of improving the automated transcription service. They also claimed they had immediately paused the activity when this report came out.
Still, this will be brutal to the continued hopes that Libra will one day launch. Messenger was formerly lead by David Marcus, who now leads Calibra, Facebook’s wallet for the Libra platform. That his former project might have been outsourcing user data without their knowledge for some time won’t lend confidence to their future wallet offering.
The backlog of scandals that Facebook faces will likely be the biggest barrier to world governments accepting Libra into their countries. While Facebook repeatedly reminds its critics that it will only be one vote in the Libra Association, it also only takes one member to leak or give away all Libra users data. Facebook has proven repeatedly that it could be that member.
This will be another juicy topic for Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who’s already listed out many scandals as reasons not to hand over the world’s money supply to the social media giant. Besides giving away user audio, she’s noted their data leaks, fake accounts and Russian manipulation of elections as reasons to hold Libra back.
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