Is Facebook using your phone’s microphone to spy on you?
More than a year after Facebook officials wrote a blog post shutting down claims of Facebook using phones to listen to conversations for advertising or Newsfeed purposes, company officials have once again publicly denied claims.
This week, Facebook advertising VP Rob Goldman took to Twitter to shut rumors down after a Reply All radio host asked listeners to call in with stories that made them believe Facebook uses phone microphones for ad purposes.
The tweet received more than 200 responses with many skeptical scenarios where people claim Facebook is listening to their conversations.
This weekend, a year-old YouTube video trending on Reddit shows the user claiming to “prove” that Facebook listens to audio conversations by showing him and his girlfriend talk about cat food, which they say they have never talked about or searched before. A few days after the conversation, the video shows a cat food ad pop up in the man’s Facebook Newsfeed.
“I run ads product at Facebook. We don't - and have never - used your microphone for ads. Just not true,” Goldman wrote on Twitter.
“Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed,” Facebook wrote in a blog post last year. “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.
Where the rumors started
In June 2016, University of South Florida professor Kelli Burns claimed that Facebook eavesdrops on its mobile users, according to the Washington Post. Her comments in a a Tampa TV news story went viral with “professor believes Facebook is listening to your conversations” plastered in headlines across the globe.
“Maybe there is something here that deserves further study and exploration, but I’m not personally issuing a warning about Facebook based on this weak anecdotal evidence,” she wrote in the blog post.
She wasn’t the first to claim that Facebook was listening to our conversions. Rumors on Reddit can be traced back to when Facebook started using browsing data for advertising purposes in 2014, the Washington Post reports.
Why you probably shouldn’t worry
One theory claims that the ads may have appeared before but had not been noticed because the topic wasn’t relevant to them before, BBC reports.
Tech media company Gizmodo claims that even if Facebook wanted to spy on its users through microphones, it likely doesn’t have the technology. It recently launched an “Identify TV and Music” feature that identifies music within a few seconds of a song. However, product chief Stan Chudnovsky told Recode in May that Facebook is still struggling with some aspects of the technology.
If you’re still worried about it, you can always turn off Facebook’s microphone feature on your phone.