Expert Warns Facebook Could Be Listening Into Your Conversation Through Your Phone
Facebook using people’s phones to listen in on what they’re saying, suggests professor
The company says that it does use peoples’ microphones, but only to help them out – and there’s an easy way of turning it off
Sshhh!!! Even Facebook has ears and they want to hear what you have to say. Literally!!! According to an expert, Facebook is listening in on people’s conversations all of the time to gather data on what they are talking about. However, the social networking giant says that its app does listen to what’s happening around it, but only as a way of seeing what people are listening to or watching and suggesting that they post about it.
A Facebook spokesperson said, “Facebook does not use microphone audio to inform advertising or News Feed stories in any way. Businesses are able to serve relevant ads based on people’s interests and other demographic information, but not through audio collection.”
However, some experts believe that Facebook is not being fully transparent. Once the microphone feature is enabled, Facebook can listen in to your private conversation, even when one is not actively engaging with the app.
While the feature has been available for a couple of years, but recent warnings from Kelli Burns, mass communication professor at the University of South Florida, have drawn attention to it.
Burns remarked, “I don’t think that people realize how much Facebook is tracking every move we’re making online. Anything that you’re doing on your phone, Facebook is watching.”
In an NBC report, the feature is tested by Professor Burns. In the experiment, she says aloud with her microphone feature on, “I’m really interested in going on an African safari. I think it’d be wonderful to ride in one of those jeeps.”
Less than 60 seconds later, the first post on her Facebook feed was a safari story that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Turns out, it was a story that had been posted three hours earlier. And, after mentioning a jeep, a car ad also appeared on her page.
“That is kind of weird,” she laughed. “I’m still not so sure this isn’t just coincidence. I don’t think Facebook is really listening to our conversations.”
At the moment, the feature is only available in the U.S. and works when users have activated their microphone while posting.
It’s designed to listen for TV shows and music in the background, to offer users the option to talk about what they’re listening to.
Facebook says, “No, we don’t record your conversations. If you choose to turn on this feature, we’ll only use your microphone to identify the things you’re listening to or watching based on the music and TV matches we’re able to identify. If this feature is turned on, it’s only active when you’re writing a status update.”
Dr. Kathleen Stansberry, an expert in strategic communications and social media in Cleveland State told that “Facebook certainly tracks our search data. Tracks when we’re using Facebook, what we’re posting about it tracks the topics that we’re interested in and then it targets advertising.”
In 2015, Facebook made $17.9 billion in ads, and what’s called data mining, which is selling information about your user habits, patterns and likes, and Dr. Stansberry says you shouldn’t be shocked.
“If you’re not paying for something then you’re probably the product. You are paying with your privacy. You’re paying with your information,” added Dr. Stansberry.