With a billion people checking Facebook 14 times a day, the social media giant may find it hard to not listen to people’s conversations as to improve ad targeting like no other rival company can.
Prof. Kelli Burns, a social media specialist at the University of South Florida, believes that the Orwellian nightmare is unfurling just under our nose. Burns thinks that the company is now gathering intelligence for advertisement purposes. And she has evidence.
The professor noted that people are addicted to Facebook which makes the social networking giant’s work even easier. An average Facebook user doesn’t have an attention span longer than 2 seconds.
You can see people checking their notifications almost everywhere. But surprisingly, Facebook has access not only to what you post but also to what you listen, speak, or look at, the professor says.
“Anything that you’re doing on your phone, Facebook is watching,”
And listening, according to the expert. It is enough to have the microphone enabled in your app’s settings to wave goodbye to privacy. The company itself said in a disclaimer that it accessed user microphone to learn what movies or music they watch or listen to.
But the situation is far creepier. Burns said that Facebook looks for some key words in your conversations to better target ads. Once one such word pops up, the app quietly places a related advertisement or story in your Facebook feed.
Burns agreed to test the theory in a recent interview. She enabled the microphone feature and initiated a random phone conversation. During the conversations she brought up her life-long wish of visiting Africa in a safari.
Less than a minute later, a story about an African safari appeared on her Facebook page randomly. Because she said that she would like to visit the continent in a jeep, a car ad also popped up.
While some may say it is a coincidence, other users have reported similar incidents. The USF expert cautioned that from the moment you agree to their terms and conditions anything can happen.
In response, Facebook dismissed the rumors by saying that it truly didn’t use its users’ microphones to target ads or tweak the News Feed. The site said that it only collected data from people’s posts and profile information for that purpose.
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