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TECH You've already given Facebook permission to listen to your conversations

Published 18 DEC 2017 11:23AM

Words by AC Speed




It’s been suggested recently that Facebook has been listening to your daily vocal chatter, taking keywords and then targeting you with advertisements related to your conversations.

Although the California based tech giant has denied this, we live in an age where we are constantly force fed lies as a cover for what many governments see as the, “greater picture”.

Just exactly how complex a task do you think it would be for Facebook to implement a sneaky way to listen to all of your conversations, and do it legally?

Does it conjure up images of top secret government agents planting bugs around
your home or even in your office at work?


Yeah, it’s nowhere near as high tech and you’ve already told the globally dominating social platform they can listen to whatever they want.


The Facebook app, known as F8, can already access your microphone to record audio messages you want to send to friends and loved one’s. So, the code to access this part of your device is already built into the app. You’ve agreed to the facebook terms of service by downloading the app, and by doing so, you have explicitly given them permission to access the microphone on your android, IOS and windows device.

By downloading the app you agree under section 12 of their TOS, ‘Special Provisions Applicable to Software’ to the following:

If you download or use our software, such as a stand-alone software product, an app, or a browser plugin, you agree that from time to time, the software may download and install upgrades, updates and additional features from us in order to improve, enhance, and further develop the software.”

All of this is very vague and could be interpreted in several ways. Whilst it may seem like a harmless statement to which you may be thinking, “that’s just to make sure everything works OK”. Do you not think facebook would consider the app “enhanced” if they could deliver more effective ads to its users?

Considering every website on the planet, including Facebook, already uses cookies to track which sites you visit in order to deliver adverts relevant to you on its social platform, it’s not really far fetched to imagine they track your conversations to do exactly the same thing, is it?


But I’m safe under Data Protection Law?

Not really, in most parts of the world Data Protection only limits companies sharing your sensitive personal data, such as your bank details, name, address or any information that can actually “identify” you as an individual. Your conversations are not subject to this legislation.

Also, the United States still does not have in place a comprehensive, federal data protection act. Facebook will only take action if ordered by a government as stated in their TOS. So, they don't really care about local Data Protection Laws. They have adpoted a kind of, "if we get caught we'll do something about it" approach.


Another vague aspect of their terms of service, which could easily indicate they use your conversations to enhance advertising is as follows:

“You give us permission to use your name, profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us.”


Information being the keyword here. Facebook defines this word as - “By "information" we mean facts and other information about you, including actions taken by users and non-users who interact with Facebook.”

“other information”? Well that’s vague. Does this include information such as a conversation that took place around the subject of needing to buy a new product, a product that magically appeared in an advert in your news feed a couple of days later?


As with many of these conspiracies, it’s impossible to prove that Facebook or any other social network actually listens to you. We do know that the US and UK government have long lists of keywords they look for in electronic communications to try and gather data on terror and crime.

With the sheer amount of data that all huge tech companies collect on us to help drive advertising revenues sky high, would it really be that much of a shock if they also listened in to what we said?

And don’t think just because you only log on a couple of times day the app can’t hear you, these apps run in the background, they are always on, always listening.

Just remember, they can already access the microphone on any device you own, you’ve already told them they can.

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