In a recent statement, Facebook has confirmed that the company does not hijack into your smartphone’s microphone to display ads or to modify your preferences in News Feed.
This is after few news reports which surfaced on the web stating that Facebook is, in fact, listening to people’s conversations without any proper disclosure. Moreover, the ads displayed on the Facebook are fetched automatically based on the conversations.
Responding to media queries, Kelli Burns, a professor of mass communications at the University of South Florida, revealed to a popular newspaper that Facebook is secretly listening to user’s conversations but declined to provide any concrete evidence.
Even though Facebook has categorically declined that it sneaks into the microphone of your smartphone, the company sources disclosed that ads are displayed based on the user’s general interest and other profile information, which they initially provided. For instance, if a user has indicated interest in Cooking, then ads based on cooking related products are displayed and not what they speak over the built-in microphone.
If the reports turn out to be true, then it will be a serious violation of privacy. Moreover, it’s illegal to listen to user’s private conversations without prior permission.
In the meantime, Facebook has confirmed that they only access microphone based on app permission settings, and if the concerned user actively makes use of a feature that consumes audio. This includes video recording including the addition of music or other audio in your status updates. Hence, you should carefully verify the settings to check whether the microphone feature is enabled. If you think it will infringe your privacy, then you should turn it off.
Facebook will only tap your microphone if you are listening to music or television shows in the background when you are composing a status provided you activated the relevant feature. Hence, you can consider this as an opt-in feature similar to that of music-tagging service Shazam.
You can manage microphone option using both iOS and Android. In the case of Android, you need to navigate to “Privacy and Safety” option in Settings, locate the microphone section under the app permissions panel and toggle off Facebook’s access. If you have an iOS device, you need to navigate the Settings panel, locate Facebook and slide off the “microphone” option.