The social network giants have refuted yet again to be untrue the rumours that they use smartphone mics to listen in on private conversations.
The users are said to believe this is so when they receive suspiciously timed promotional messages on the platform, especially when they didn’t go in search for such type of product anywhere online.
Rob Goldman, the head of advertising at the social network, issued the denial in response to a question from the host of tech podcast Reply All. “I run ads product at Facebook. We don’t – and have never – used your microphone for ads. Just not true,” Goldman tweeted, maintaining the same stance for Instagram as well.
The rumours appeared to have started in May 2014 when the company launched a feature called “Identify TV and Music” which listens for ambient noise when a user is writing a status update.
The suspicion about Facebook eavesdropping on conversations seems to also be linked with the permissions users grant the network on installing the app.
And in most cases, granting permission is an all-or-nothing affair. This means you cannot cherry-pick the permissions to grant or deny when installing an app. You either accept or decline. This puts Facebook and apps like it at an advantage.
The last time claims Facebook was listening to its users surfaced, the company put a permanent page on its website.
"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," it read.
Facebook however has admitted to using smartphones’ microphones whenever granted permission to do so. “We only access your microphone if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio,” it said in a statement.
"We show ads based on people's interests and other profile information - not what you're talking out loud about."
Privacy in today’s social media era calls has become a hot topic, with a school of thought holding sway that with the rise of social media, privacy is being lost at a fast scary pace.
And this is not limited to Facebook as all your activities such as sharing status updates, tagging friends and family, no matter how little constitutes meta-data that make up one’s digital persona.
Evolving technologies of facial recognition and machine learning means tech companies might know more about us than we do.
And this is extremely useful to anyone who needs to do any customer targeting - this includes advertising agencies, digital marketers and social networks.
There are drastic measures you could take if you remain skeptic about your privacy being compromised by social networks.
You could do the following:
Uninstall the app altogether (if you are very privacy sensitive)
Find apps that can block social networking apps from recording audio
Use messaging apps like Telegram which ensure encryption and privacy across all communications.
Switch to secured and private decentralized social networks
Do you get that feeling sometimes about Facebook serving you very suspicious ads, as if you told them directly about it? We would like to know. Share with us?