Facebook wants to hear everything you have to say – literally.
The social media giant is listening in on people’s conversations all the time – and the app might be using people’s phones to gather data on what they are talking about, according to an expert.
The feature has been available for a couple of years, but a recent warning from Kelli Burns, mass communication professor at the University of South Florida, has drawn attention to it.
Professor Burns claims to have tested a suspicion that Facebook’s app is listening to everything you say and providing ads based on that content – and found it was true. She says that to test the feature, she discussed certain topics around the phone and found that the site appeared to show relevant ads, the Telegraph reports.
She verified that the app grants itself access to your microphone by talking about a holiday she wanted to take.
According to NBC, she said out loud with her phone in hand: “I’m really interested in going on an African safari. I think it’d be wonderful to ride in one of those jeeps.”
Under a minute later, the first story in her Facebook feed was about a safari. And a car ad appeared on her page.
Facebook however, says while its app does listen to what’s happening around it, it’s only as a way of seeing what people are listening to or watching and suggesting that they post about it. And at the moment, the feature is only available in America.
Though Burns said she was not convinced Facebook is listening in on all conversations – it may have been that she was searching for the same things she chose to discuss around the phone – she said it wouldn’t be a surprising move from the company.
The site, itself, admits in an online statement, “We use your microphone to identify the things you’re listening to or watching, based on the music and TV matches we’re able to identify.”
Want to make sure Facebook isn’t listening in? Head into your phone’s settings, click on privacy, then microphone, and the option to turn off Facebook will stop your mic from being activated when using the app.
This may just be real-life Big Brother.