Here’s a wild thought: Is Facebook spying on you through your microphone?
Imagine this. You’re talking with your friends about mosquitos and how the pesky insects have infested your life. During the entire conversation, your phone is on the table (like it always is) and it’s locked. Nothing weird here right? So you get home a few hours later, decide to launch the Facebook app and lo and behold… there are some advertisements on mosquito repellants on your feed. Coincidence? Netizens don’t think so.
These days, it seems like Facebook knows you more than you know yourself. With stalker-like accuracy on “People You May Know” suggestions to intriguing advertisements that actually catch your attention, it seems like Facebook knows your interests, your hobbies, what you like and what you don’t.
So what if Facebook is actually listening in on your conversations throughout the day for ad targeting? That’ll be the scariest thing we’ve heard in a while, and people believe it’s true, even though Facebook denies the theory.
Anyone else convinced our phones are spying on us/listening in? Two random brands I talked about aloud today just came up as Facebook ads 😳
— Rachel Ferrigno (Maleady) (@rachelmaleady) October 29, 2017
I’m pretty sure the @Facebook app listens to us. I deleted it today… you won’t be spying on my anymore 😑
— J-5ive (@Johnny5187) October 29, 2017
Fun fact: the Facebook app has been spying on all of your conversations since at least 2014, even if the app is closed
— dairy KING 👑 (@sIipperyboi) October 30, 2017
Netizens have conducted multiple experiments to prove that their theory is accurate and that Facebook is indeed tracking their conversations, even if the app remains in the background or when their phones are not in use. Recently, a video of a couple testing the theory went viral on several media platforms, and the results are absolutely disturbing.
The couple conducted an experiment where they talked about cats and cat food the entire day while their phone was within reach. Neville stated that he has no cats, has never searched for cats or cat food, and yet after a few conversations at home about cat food with his phone nearby, he soon found advertisements for cat food on his account.
With this, Facebook has tried (multiple times) to shut down the theory.
The company wrote a blog post earlier in June 2, 2016 which stated:
“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.”
I run ads product at Facebook. We don’t – and have never – used your microphone for ads. Just not true.
— Rob Goldman (@robjective) October 26, 2017
So the question here is, is it possible for Facebook to actually listen in to our conversations?
Well, the answer is yes, it is possible. However, according to WIRED, “To make it happen, Facebook would need to record everything your phone hears while it’s on. This is functionally equivalent to an always-on phone call from you to Facebook. Your average voice-over-internet call takes something like 24kbps one way, which amounts to about 3 kBs of data per second. Assume you’ve got your phone on half the day, that’s about 130 MBs per day, per user. There are around 150 million daily active users in the US, so that’s about 20 petabytes per day, just in the US.”
Basically, even if Facebook wanted to do it, it just doesn’t have the sufficient technology to do so.
Okay, so how does Facebook show ads about your conversations?
We’re sorry to bust your bubble, but the most probable explanation is that it doesn’t. The truth is, Facebook really does not need to spy on your conversations through the microphones to know what you’re talking about. It has plenty of existing data in hand that could accurately predict things that you may have discussed.
It might be really suspicious how Facebook’s got all this information (information you put out willingly), but it doesn’t necessarily mean that Facebook’s going through such extra lengths for ad targeting, does it? But, then again, who knows what could happen in the future? Since #bigbrotheriswatching might come true, maybe it’s time to switch to musical.ly?