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Is Facebook listening to you? We reveal the truth – and how to stay safe

If you’re feeling paranoid, you’re not alone – but are you crazy?

RECKON Facebook is snooping on your private conversations? Countless users say their phone’s microphone has been hijacked by Facebook to target ads.

If you’ve ever been paranoid that Facebook is listening to you, you’ll want to read our guide on mysterious Facebook voice snooping.

 Some users are convinced billionaire Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is snooping on their real-world conversations


Some users are convinced billionaire Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is snooping on their real-world conversations
Credit: Josh Edelson / AFP

Why do people think Facebook is listening to us?

There’s been endless debate about this online for years.

Many Facebook users say they’ve spoken about something out loud, only for adverts to appear on the app soon after.

These users claim they’ve never searched for this sort of content before, and the only possible explanation is snooping.

Users reckon Facebook is using your phone’s microphone to listen in on real-world conversations – to help target ads. But is it true?

 Twitter is full of suspicious Facebook users

Twitter is full of suspicious Facebook usersCredit: Twitter / The Sun
 Users think there's no way Facebook could've targeted some ads without snooping through their handset microphone

Users think there’s no way Facebook could’ve targeted some ads without snooping through their handset microphoneCredit: Twitter / The Sun

What does Facebook say?

Facebook has been very clear about the matter, and says it isn’t using microphone recordings to target ads better.

“Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed,” a company spokesperson said.

“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.

“We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information – not what you’re talking out loud about.

“We only access your microphone if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio.

“This might include recording a video or using an optional feature we introduced two years ago to include music or other audio in your status updates.”

And earlier this year – during Mark Zuckerberg’s US Senate grilling over privacy – Facebook’s billionaire boss gave a resolute “no” when asked if the app snooped on user’s conversations using smartphone microphones.

 Facebook users struggle to explain the mysterious ads

Facebook users struggle to explain the mysterious adsCredit: Twitter / The Sun
 Facebook has firmly denied snooping – but not everyone is convinced

Facebook has firmly denied snooping – but not everyone is convincedCredit: Twitter / The Sun

Is Facebook really listening to you?

Facebook has a terrible track record when it comes to privacy and security – but it’s almost certainly not snooping on your real-life conversations.

Billions of people use Facebook around the planet. It’s used by privacy researchers, computer scientists, technology journalists, and countless other experts who will have mined the app for any inkling of wrongdoing.

There’s never been any solid evidence – beyond hearsay and anecdotes – that Facebook is recording your real-life conversations.

It’s possible to track every piece of data that moves in and out of your smartphone over internet connections, so it’s easy for researchers to spot if dodgy data is being transmitted to Facebook servers.

In fact that’s exactly what Northeastern University did earlier this year for 17,000 apps, including Facebook and 8,000 apps that can send info to Facebook.

More than half of these apps had permission to access your phone’s camera and microphone, but none of them were found to be sending off audio files anywhere.

Of course this doesn’t prove that Facebook is never snooping on you, but the study certainly didn’t prove that Facebook was doing anything untoward.

Why does it feel like Facebook is snooping on you?

The magic of targeted advertising is that it should feel relevant to you – even if you can’t figure out why.

Facebook doesn’t need to spy on your real-life conversations, because you hand over so much information anyway.

Follow this link and you’ll be able to download everything Facebook knows about you. Most of you will quickly realise it’s a staggering amount of information.

Advertisers can use information gleaned from your activity all across the web, on multiple devices, even if you’re not logged into Facebook or other services.

They’ll likely know where you live, what you like, who your friends are, how much money you make, your political beliefs and much more.

So when you get ads for something you’ve talked about out loud, it’s almost certainly just advertisers being very good at predicting your interests.

It’s also possible that there’s an advertising campaign running, and you’ve seen an ad and not noticed. You’ve then spoken about it, never realising you’ve been advertised to, and only then notice future ads – which suddenly seem suspicious.

 Facebook can track your behaviour across devices, which may explain some seemingly rogue ads

Facebook can track your behaviour across devices, which may explain some seemingly rogue adsCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Let’s say you talked about a holiday to Scotland, and then all of a sudden you’re being advertised holidays to Scotland.

You may never have searched for anything to do with that before.

But Facebook could use info about your level of wealth, your past holiday interests, the time of year (ads for wintry Scottish retreats are common in the colder months), and your location.

What seems like snooping is actually just clever advertising.

How to stay safe from Facebook snooping

If you’re still convinced Facebook is snooping on you then you have a few options.

The first is to bin the service altogether – which isn’t a bad idea given we’ve seen two major security breaches this year, leaving tens of millions of users exposed.

If that’s your chosen route, follow our simple guide on how to delete Facebook.

Alternatively, you can simply disable microphone access for Facebook.

This means you won’t be able to record audio when creating videos or voice clips with Facebook.

But it also means any of your fears about Facebook conversation snooping should be dispelled.

On iPhone:

  • Go to Settings app
  • Tap Privacy
  • Tap Microphone
  • Toggle Facebook to OFF

On Android:

  • Go to Settings
  • Go into Apps & Notifications
  • Find Facebook
  • Tap into Permissions
  • Toggle Microphone to OFF

This means Facebook will no longer be able to access your phone’s microphone – unless you turn the setting back on again.

Originally Posted @ The Sun