Facebook has shut down rumors that it uses your mobile device’s microphone to eavesdrop on conversations so it can better target ads. In a statement issued on June 2nd, Facebook said it “does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed.” The company says it only shows ads based on people’s interests and other profile information.
Facebook is responding directly to claims made by Kelli Burns, a professor of mass communications at University of South Florida. Burns told The Independent this week that she thought the company was secretly listening to its users’ conversations, but had no concrete proof.
Burns wasn’t the first to float the theory, although her claims did provoke a new torrent of bombastic headlines. In fact, fears of Facebook eavesdropping has been bubbling around social media circles for quite some time. The logic is that Facebook has access to your microphone because users give it permission to listen when trying to use mobile app features like capturing video. It’s not so farfetched then to think Facebook might be listening all the time — to what you talk about in person or on the phone with others — so it can plant stories in your News Feed and display ads related to what you were discussing. Devices like Amazon’s Echo definitively do listen all the time, unless muted.