Expensify’s “SmartScan” technology was secretly being powered by humans

The expense report hero has been secretly posting personal invoices to a freelancing website to transcribe their expenses for their "autonomous" tech.


December 1, 2017

Expensify specializes in a “SmartScan” technology that handles everyone’s most loathed work-related task: filing expense reports.

The software company is said to reimburse millions of dollars daily, all with their “autonomous” tech that peeps personal receipts that are often full of private info like names, emails, and sometimes even bank routing numbers.

So naturally, after finding out the expense report software hero has been secretly posting personal invoices to a freelancing website to transcribe their expenses, people were… incensed.

Real “smart,” guys

The malfeasance was discovered by activist Rochelle LaPlante while she was looking for work on MTurk, a freelance job site.

Contractors on MTurk take on various “human intelligence tasks” (AKA “HITS”) such as image-tagging, proofreading… and apparently, transcribing people’s personal receipts.

After finding various examples — including an invoice for a stay at a Saudi Arabian hotel, equipped with the person’s name and bank account number — LaPlante immediately called out Expensify out on Twitter.

Care for some human with that robot?

After the Tweet, Expensify CEO David Barrett tried to save-face, explaining in a blog post that they farmed receipts out as part of a “new privacy-enhancing feature.”

Sounds a little fishy (we’d assume humans are harder to monitor than algorithms when it comes to ripping off data). And to make matters worse, according to Barrett, they’ve been farming receipts out to MTurk since 2009.

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