Facebook doesn't listen through your phone's mic -- except when it does

Facebook denies listening to your conversations to target advertising. But denial wording seems odd.

Facebook advertising
Credit: U.S. Navy, via Celestial Images [public domain]

Is Facebook listening to every word you say? Zuck’s crew says it won’t use your speech to target advertising or reorder your feed, but it’s still unclear what it does use the microphone for. Aside from the obvious, that is. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers tighten their lips, for fear of sinking their privacy.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: This irritating iPhone app


What’s the craic? Sophie Kleeman reports the denial—Facebook Says It's Definitely Not Listening to Your Phone's Microphone:

Facebook [is] not listening to your microphone. ... Nope, no way, nuh-uh, no siree.

The pledge comes in response to recent reports...that Facebook could be using background conversations to [target] ads. ... Facebook, however, dismissed the accusations.


Previously, Andrew Griffin reported the accusation—professor suggests:

Kelli Burns, mass communication professor at the University of South Florida [said] she discussed certain topics around the phone and then found that the site appeared to show relevant ads. ... The claim chimes with anecdotal reports [it] appears to show ads for things that people have mentioned in passing.

Facebook says...it doesn’t record conversations, but that it does use the audio to identify what is happening. ... The claims come after Belgian police warned citizens not to use Facebook's Reactions tool.


This seems pretty thin stuff, frankly. Facebook’s faceless PR mavens respond bluntly—Facebook Does Not Use Your Phone’s Microphone for Ads or News Feed Stories:

Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed. [We don’t] show ads based on...what you’re talking out loud about.

We only access your microphone...if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio. This might include...using an optional feature we introduced two years ago to include...audio in your status updates.


Oh well that’s all right then. Zoe Kleinman notes Prof. Burns’ quote was blown out of proportion—claim denied by professor:

Burns has denied saying she believes Facebook is listening to people. ... "I never made the claim that [it] is happening, or that my one experiment...was in any way proof. ... I never said...Facebook can hear you."

She has since heard from...people who believe it...also happened to them. ... "I believe there are a lot of strange...coincidences out there and people are looking for those."


That’s all very well, but where’s the bigger picture? Antonio García Martínez has a book to plug:

Facebook [has] a company culture with the fervor of a messianic sect. ... By imprinting [his] vision on his disciples, Zuckerberg founded the church of a new religion. ... The hacker ethos prevailed above all.

Facebook is full of true believers. ... Everyone sacrificing his or her entire life for the cause. [They] really, really, really...will not stop until every man, woman, and child on earth is staring [at] a Facebook logo..like the proverbial lab rat...hitting the lever for another drop of cocaine water.


And Finally…

Is this the most irritating app ever?


You have been reading IT Blogwatch by Richi Jennings, who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don’t have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or itbw@richi.uk.
Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

To express your thoughts on Computerworld content, visit Computerworld's Facebook page, LinkedIn page and Twitter stream.
From CIO: 8 Free Online Courses to Grow Your Tech Skills
Shop Tech Products at Amazon
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.