Thursday, May 26, 2022

Facebook is not listening on your phone. it’s not meant to

Earlier this week, a video went viral on TikTok (20 million views) of how Facebook is listening on your phone. The woman in the video claimed that she was a former Facebook employee.

The video is part of the viral “tell me something from the place you used to work” trend.

There are a lot of rumors about how accurately targeted ads are displayed on Meta’s apps, including Facebook and Instagram. This is a very controversial phenomenon with people suggesting they can listen on their phones.

It’s technically impossible – though that hasn’t stopped tech companies from continuing to try (more on that in more detail).

The amount of data Facebook needs to collect via microphones from users around the world would be huge and it would be too traceable to record. Even using target keywords to trigger recording is not feasible as it would require a ton of speech-to-text translation and natural language processing.

Scientists researching whether or not smartphones actually hear have not been found. The paper explored something else – apps that record a phone’s screen and send that information to third parties.

“We did not find any evidence that people’s conversations were being recorded secretly. What people don’t understand is that there’s so many other tracking in daily life that doesn’t involve your phone’s camera or microphone that gives a third party an equally comprehensive view of you,” said David Choffnes.

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Facebook and other tech companies don’t need to tap into your smartphone when they have other legal and cheap ways to collect data on you.

Facebook is using FB Pixel and its newsfeed algorithm.

The Pixel is a small piece of code that is embedded in nearly every app and website and sent to Facebook to collect anonymized data. The data included the websites you visited, how long you were there and whether or not you decided to buy.

Newsfeed algorithms use this as a signal, as well as other data points including age, friends, what you watch and where and when you post it to figure out which ad to target. However, this is done in aggregated groups – so it is not exclusive or personal to you.

You can disable this off-Facebook tracking here.

In 2021, eMarketer published a report (paywalled) detailing all the data that is used to target people with ads where the data (first-party, second-party and third-party sources) ) and all the scary data sources are tech companies planning to start mining further.

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Facebook is not listening on your phone. it's not meant to
Facebook is not listening on your phone. it's not meant to

Tech companies are already working to figure out how to increase the efficiency of practical ad targeting. So far 14 patents have been filed from companies such as Sony, AT&T, Nuance, Google, Amazon, Qualcomm, Empire Technologies, Nielsen and Citibank, Cisco, Microsoft, and Apple.

Patent users use sniffer algorithms to deal with trigger words for keywords ranging from conversational/speech data, environmental data to ad segments, identifying voice data and social networks to trace a person’s identity Context-aware geo-targeted advertising in communication sessions. Advertisements based on customized user dictionaries, and public display networks for online advertising that matches advertising content to audiences in physical locations.

Most of these patents mention I/O devices such as microphones and audio data as sources.

Smaller ad tracking companies that are lesser-known are also feeding the advertising industry through untraceable channels with data collected imperceptibly in the background via non-privileged third-party libraries.

Facebook is not listening on your phone. it's not meant to

This checklist will help you ensure that the security and privacy of your device is in top condition and keep malware away.

Articles in this section

Here’s how to protect your privacy and stay safe:

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
Nation World News is the fastest emerging news website covering all the latest news, world’s top stories, science news entertainment sports cricket’s latest discoveries, new technology gadgets, politics news, and more.
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