Friday, June 24, 2016 by Mary Wilder
Facebook has been receiving lots of media coverage as of late, and none of the reasons are good.
After recently being exposed for removing conservative news from their list of trending topics, and for banning pro-LGBT groups and pages in the wake of the Orlando shooting, Facebook received deserved criticism from both conservatives and those who support free speech in general. Turning a social media network into a hub of liberal propaganda is gross and especially frustrating when you consider that a significant amount of Facebook users are conservative. However, the latest bit of news regarding the company may be the most upsetting to date.
It was recently brought to light that Facebook’s mobile app has complete access to cellphones’ microphones. The app listens in to conversations and uses the information to suggest post topics and advertisements. To call that an invasion of privacy is an understatement. What’s even crazier — Facebook is admitting that their mobile app utilizes the microphone!
Kelli Burns — a mass communication professor who teaches at the University of South Florida — helped expose the truth behind the app in an interview with The Independent. According to the publication, “Facebook says that its app does listen to what’s happening around it, but only as a way of seeing what people are listening to or watching and suggesting that they post about it.”
A spokesperson for Facebook went on to say that though the app does utilize the microphone, it doesn’t affect advertising feeds in any way. “Businesses are able to serve relevant ads based on people’s interests and other demographic information, but not through audio collection.” Admittedly, though, how trustworthy is Facebook at this point?
Even if those claims are true — and Facebook isn’t collecting this personal data through cellphone mics — this still seems like a severe invasion of privacy; to have an app on your smart phone listen into private conversations. It’s deeply unsettling in more than a few ways.