Facebook denies using smartphone mics to eavesdrop on users


Facebook has officially denied claims that it has been eavesdropping on users.

Reports surfaced last Thursday that the tech giant had been using the microphones on the smartphones of users to listen in and record conversations in order to help deliver more targeted ads.

A strongly worded statement read: “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.”

The claims that Facebook was listening in on users came after Kelli Burns, a mass communications professor at the University of South Florida told The Independent about Facebook showing her ads based on the conversations she had had using its Messenger mobile app.

Despite having no concrete proof, Burns claimed to have tested her theory by discussing topics on the phone and then a short time later seeing ads related to the topic in her Facebook newsfeed.

Prof Burns has since denied that she made the claims, telling the BBC that “Although the angle of the story was supportive of the idea that Facebook uses the microphone I never made the claim that I believe that is happening, or that my one experiment with a reporter was in any way proof of that happening.”

This is not the first time that Facebook has been accused of eavesdropping on users in order to serve them more targeted ads.

In 2014, the company announced a new audio recognition feature which involved its mobile app listening in to music or TV shows that may be playing in the background whenever a user posted a status update.

Unsurprisingly, people claimed that the feature invaded their privacy and Facebook was forced to clarify it was an opt-in feature only.

This latest incident will do little to ease concerns over privacy and how Facebook and other large tech companies can gain access to and use user data.



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