Have you ever wondered why certain apps on your phone are constantly running? It turns out at least one of those apps is listening in on your conversations, as well as tracking your every move via GPS. But don’t worry, it’s only for advertising. (Did you detect sarcasm?)
I went to a nameless home improvement store with my wife a few weekends ago, and she was on Facebook in the car (even though it drives me nuts) and we were talking about a particular brand of power tool on the ride over. After we get home, she shows me a “suggested item” sponsored by that store and it was the exact power tool we were talking about!
Now, I don’t know about you, but my private conversations are just that - PRIVATE. If I wanted Facebook listening to my conversations, I'd call Mark Zuckerberg and invite him to do so personally. After this remarketing/retargeting incident, I went and did a little digging and found some rather disturbing new policies and “features” recently added to the Facebook app.
Kelli Burns, a professor of Mass Communications at the University of South Florida says that Facebook spies on your conversations and shows you ads according to the details of your conversation. "The tool appears to be using the audio it gathers not simply to help out users, but to listen in to discussions and serve them with relevant advertising”, said Burns.
She then provided a demonstration where she would talk about certain topics around her phone and then show how these same topics would appear on her Facebook News Feed.
On a FB help page, it explains that your audio is being used to identify activity occurring in the vicinity of the phone, and makes a poor attempt to make it sound like a service they provide to help you.
When your app is on and this feature is activated, a happy face with soundwaves around the head appears in the status update when you’re writing a new post. This is your queue that digital eavesdropping is happening.
If you’re freaking out about your phone right now, you don’t have to throw it in a lake. You can opt out of this “feature”:
For iPhones: In the FB app itself, go to Settings > Facebook > Settings > then slide the microphone from green to white, which will turn it off.
For Androids: In the FB app itself, go to Settings > Privacy > change permissions.
It’s not just your conversations that Facebook monetizes with advertisements. They also utilize GPS, cell towers, radio, beacons, Wi-Fi, and brick-and-mortar coordinates to track your every move - even if you’re offline!
This type of data mining, at best, and spying as a worst case scenario, is only going to grow and be used more often in the future. The advertising dollars and sense see a positive return on investment (ROI), driving more companies to mine even harder into our private lives.
While opting out of these features we were never told were in existence (Shouldn’t they ask us to opt-in?) is a good first step, there have already been instances of Facebook defaulting people back in without their knowledge! An Associate Professor of Media Design at Parsons School of Design caught Facebook after the fact and had a tweet go viral. It caught so much attention that FB was forced to acknowledge it, but that came with a clever denial. According to FB’s twitter account, they did not opt people back in, but merely added a new feature, which of course you’re automatically opted into, and just so happened to do the exact same thing. There’s no reason to think this will not continue to happen moving forward.
In this author’s opinion, the only true way to keep your private information, well...private, is to use one of Silent Pocket’s Faraday Cell Phone Sleeves. I carry my phone in one at all times, sans home and work, and it completely stops this non-sense from happening.
Of course, if I were to see a Silent Pocket advertisement on my Facebook feed, however, I’d buy it immediately! You should, too.
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