Facebook has gone full big brother and started listening in on its users’ daily lives via their smartphones, the better to target them with advertising with. Or so these viral headlines would have you believe:
“Facebook is using smartphones to listen to what people say!”
“Facebook is Listening to Users’ Conversations, Here’s How to Stop it.”
“Forget Big Brother, Facebook Is Watching (And Listening).”
When the internet first became a part of our daily lives, Silicon Valley leaders like Mark Zuckerberg predicted it would usher in a new information era, an age when knowledge and information would travel at the speed of light. But while the web is a powerful tool for spreading human knowledge, it’s equally effective at spreading total garbage nonsense, also at the speed of light.
And this time, Facebook itself is the victim of another viral hoax. While Facebook does have an app called “Identify TV and Music,” the app only identifies whatever song or TV show is playing at the time, and the user must turn on the app to activate it. While there are plenty of new privacy concerns in the age of Big Data, this hoax isn’t one of them.
Today, popular social media sites like Facebook have billions of users, and corporations will pay insane amounts of money to collect data on those users’ preferences and behaviors. Today, blogs and social media apps now account for 23% of all time spent on the web, reaching 80% of internet users.
Some version of this Facebook Big Brother hoax has been floating around the Interwebs since at least 2014. A typical retelling of the story reads, “Facebook just announced a new feature to its app, which will let it listen to our conversations through our own phones’ microphone. Talk about a Big Brother move…. Not only is this move just downright creepy, it’s also a massive threat to our privacy.”
And according to mythbusting website Snopes.com:
WHAT’S TRUE: The Facebook ‘Identify TV and Music’ app can use a smart phone’s microphone to identify what song or TV show a user is listening to and automatically insert that information into a status update.
WHAT’S FALSE: The app does not secretly record and store private conversations; Facebook repeatedly stated that the feature is never used to tailor advertising.