Internet giant Facebook has released an official statement refuting recent reports that it uses the microphones on users’ smartphones to eavesdrop and record conversations, using the data to deliver targeted ads. The company wrote that it “does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed,” noting that ads are only based on users’ profiles and interests.
The rumors about the app listening in on people began when The Independent reported that Kelli Burns, a University of South Florida mass communication professor, made claims about Facebook showing her ads based on her conversations. She had no concrete proof, but said she tested the theory by discussing topics near her phone, and then seeing related ads on the social network.
While this is the latest round of theories about Facebook eavesdropping on users in order to target ads, it certainly isn’t the first. In 2014 the company announced a controversial feature that involved the app listening for music or TV shows in the background when users posted a status update. Privacy flags were rightfully raised, and Facebook clarified that the feature was strictly opt-in.
While that requirement turned out to be true in that case, it hasn’t stopped the belief that the Facebook app could access a device’s microphone and use it to listen at all times. In this case, however, Facebook has again iterated that this isn’t the case. “We only access your microphone if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio,” the latest statement says.