Spying Secrets: Is Facebook eavesdropping on your phone conversations?
By WFLA STAFF Published: May 24, 2016, 11:10 am
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – It’s irresistible, enticing and addicting. And, it’s available 24-hours a day all over the world to billions of people. Facebook beckons to users seemingly with a two-prong approach – both the pressure and pleasure to post.
We share stories, photos, triumphs and tragedies. It is ingrained into our daily lives so deeply that studies show people check Facebook, on average, 14 times a day. With all those eyes all over the globe dialed in and the purchasing power available, the online giant has tapped into a controversial delivery of data into its intelligence gathering. It all starts with something that you may not even realize is enabled on your phone.
USF Professor Kelli Burns knows the power of social media. The longtime educator incorporates it into her classroom curriculum every day and, in the fall, will lead a graduate course in social media analytics.
One online behemoth, in particular, is more popular than ever, she admits. “People are definitely addicted to Facebook. They’re addicted to their phones,” she told WFLA. “We have a two-second attention span. People are always checking to see what’s going on. Anytime you’re using your phone, any kind of information that you’re putting into your phone, looking at on your phone, Facebook can access that.”
With the continuous invitation for users to share, post and like, just how much information is Facebook learning about you?
According to Kelli, more than you could ever imagine. “I don’t think that people realize how much Facebook is tracking every move we’re making online,” she said. “Anything that you’re doing on your phone, Facebook is watching.” Indeed, they are.
So, be careful what you say in the presence of your phone. Facebook is not only watching, but also listening to your cell phone. It all starts with enabling your microphone feature in your settings. Once you do, choose your words carefully.
The site, itself, admits in an online statement, “We use your microphone to identify the things you’re listening to or watching, based on the music and TV matches we’re able to identify.” But, experts contend that the site is going a step further. In what some users are calling an alarming trend, described as “Big Brother,”
Facebook also listens for certain buzz words. Once identified, those words trigger an interesting response. Items are then carefully placed in your Facebook feed, specifically crafted with your interests front and center. Wait! What?
We tested the theory with Kelli, and even we were surprised by what we found and saw.
Kelli enabled the microphone feature and talked about her desire to go on safari, right down to her mode of transportation. “I’m really interested in going on an African safari. I think it’d be wonderful to ride in one of those jeeps,” she said aloud, phone in hand.
Less than 60 seconds later, the first post on her Facebook feed was a safari story that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. Turns out, it was a story that had been posted three hours earlier. And, after mentioning a jeep, a car ad also appeared on her page.
“That is kind of weird,” she laughed. “I’m still not so sure this isn’t just coincidence. I don’t think Facebook is really listening to our conversations.”
USF graduate student, Danielle Quichocho, is not at all fazed by the online “eavesdropping” with Facebook. In fact, she admits, “I don’t think it’s at all surprising,” The 22-year-old is planning her thesis around this very topic.
“It’s all about the bottom line, and if this is a way to fatten that bottom line, they’re gonna do it,” she told us. She maintains that people should be aware and educated as they use the popular app. Her motto? User beware.
So, how does she feel about Facebook using her interests as a basis for online ads, specifically designed for her in mind? “If you agree to the terms and conditions, then you know what to expect,” she said. She also advises, choose your words carefully!
“The internet is forever! You leave a footprint there. They’re going to find it. That’s just how it is,” she smiled.