Facebook wants you to know that it doesn't use your phone's mic to secretly listen to your conversations and show you targeted ads.
That creepy, Big Brother kind of behavior is something Facebook has had to repeatedly deny since 2014. Why? Because people keep thinking that they are indeed being spied on.
A NBC-affiliated news station in Columbus, Ohio recently reignited fears that Facebook is eavesdropping on us all with the headline, "Spying Secrets: Is Facebook eavesdropping on your phone conversations?"
As part of the story, USF Professor Kelli Burns demonstrated the following scenario:
Kelli enabled the microphone feature and talked about her desire to go on safari, right down to her mode of transportation. “I’m really interested in going on an African safari. I think it’d be wonderful to ride in one of those jeeps,” she said aloud, phone in hand.
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.
The conspiracy theory that Facebook is spying through our microphones began when the social network debuted a Shazam-like audio recognition feature in the US two years ago. By giving its app access to a phone's microphone, Facebook could recognize music, a TV show, or movie playing in the background and add it to a status update.
Since then, people keep wondering if Facebook is listening in on everything.
"Last year I was working up in Northern Alberta and one day at lunch we started talking about our favorite snacks and I mentioned these Tamari almonds I had once," one Redditor said 7 months ago. "I hadn't had or heard or thought of these things for a long time. Next thing I know my Facebook add space is full of Tamari flavored everything."
Here are some more examples from Reddit:
Facebook posted the following statement on June 2:
Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed. Some recent articles have suggested that we must be listening to people’s conversations in order to show them relevant ads. This is not true. We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information – not what you’re talking out loud about.
We only access your microphone if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio. This might include recording a video or using an optional feature we introduced two years ago to include music or other audio in your status updates.
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