Hoaxes & Rumors

Will New Facebook Feature Eavesdrop on Conversations?

Will New Facebook Feature Eavesdrop on Conversations?

It is claimed that a new Facebook feature will allow the social media giant to listen in on your phone conversations.

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The claim is exaggerated.

There is in fact a new Facebook app that “listens” to nearby sounds, but it is opt-in and only activated while the user is composing an update. Let’s first take a look at what is being circulated. An article – and online petition – states the following.

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.

Facebook says the feature will be used for harmless things, like identifying the song or TV show playing in the background, but it actually has the ability to listen to everything — including your private conversations — and store it indefinitely.

The article also cites a Forbes post about the new features. Forbes, although using such terms as “eavesdropping” also points out that it is an opt-in feature and only in use while composing an update.

The Facebook Feature

facebook-listeningFacebook announced the new feature in May 2014, and described it as an enhancement to the creation of a status update. If a user has turned the feature on, their phone will listen to nearby sounds for 15 seconds and attempt to identify music or TV shows playing the background, and add this information to the status update. “No sound is stored and you’ll always get to choose whether you post to your friends.”

If you’ve turned the feature on, you’ll see an audio icon moving on the screen when you write a status update. If the feature finds a match, you can then choose to add the song, TV show or movie to your post.

Like with any post, you choose who can see it. You can also turn the feature off at any time by clicking the audio icon in the top right of the screen.

If you leave the feature on, you will see the audio icon move and attempt to detect a match when you’re writing a status update. No sound is stored and you’ll always get to choose whether you post to your friends.

Below is a demonstration of the new feature in action.

On May 28, Facebook attempted to answer questions about the new feature with an updated section of their announcement.

Myth: People have to use this new feature.

Fact: Nope, this feature is completely optional.

If you don’t turn it on, we won’t use your microphone to try and match TV or music when you write a status update. If you do choose to turn it on and later decide it’s not for you, you can easily turn it off at any time.

Myth: The feature listens to and stores your conversations.

Fact: Nope, no matter how interesting your conversation, this feature does not store sound or recordings. Facebook isn’t listening to or storing your conversations.

Bottom Line

Facebook has announced a new feature which will “listen” to nearby sounds in order to match music or television in order to enhance a user’s status. The feature is opt-in, no information is stored, and no audio will be saved. While some may debate the privacy concerns raised by this announcement, the online warning and petition exaggerate the details of the new feature.

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