Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg officially shot down the conspiracy hypothesi that the social network has some route of maintaining tabs on its users by tapping into the mics on people’s smartphones. During Zuckerberg’s testimony before the Senate this afternoon, Senator Gary Peters had asked the CEO if the social network is mining audio from mobile devices — something his constituents have been asking him about, he said.
Zuckerberg denied this sort of audio data collection was taking place.
The fact that so many people believe that Facebook is “listening” to their private conversations is representative of how mistrustful users have grown of the company and its data privacy practices, the Senator noted.
” I think it’s safe to say very simply that Facebook is losing the trust of an awful lot of Americans as a result of this incident ,” told Peters, tying his constituents’ questions about mobile data mining to their outrage over the Cambridge Analyticascandal.
Questions about Facebook’s mobile data collection practises aren’t anything new, however.
In fact, Facebook went on record back in 2016 to nation — full stop — that it does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or News Feed stories.
Despite this, it’s something that keeps coming up, again and again. The Wall Street Journal even operated an explainer video about the conspiracy last month. And yet none of the reporting seem to be quash the rumor.
People simply refuse to believe it’s not happening. They’ll tell you of very specific times when something they swear they are uttered aloud speedily appeared in their Facebook News Feed.
Perhaps their inability to believe Facebook on the matter is more of an indication of how precise — and downright creepy — Facebook’s ad targeting capabilities have become over the years.
Peters took the opportunity today to ask Zuckerberg this question straight on today, during Zuckerberg’s testimony.
” Something that I’ve been hearing a lot from folks who have been coming up to me and talking about a kind of experience they’ve had where they’re having a conversation with friends — not on the phone, just talking. And then they watch ads popping up fairly quickly on their Facebook ,” Peters explained.” So I’ve heard constituents fear that Facebook is mining audio from their mobile devices for the purposes of ad targeting — which I suppose speaks to the lack of trust that we’re seeing here .”
He then asked Zuckerberg to country if this is something Facebook did.
” Yes or no: Does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about its users ?,” Peters asked.
Zuckerberg reacted simply: “No.”
The CEO then added that his answer meant “no” in terms of the conspiracy theory that keeps get passed around, but noted that the social network does allow users to record videos, which have an audio component. That was a bit of an unnecessary clarification, though, given that the issues to was about surreptitious recording , not something users were explicitly recording media to share.
” Hopefully that will dispel a lot of what I’ve been hearing ,” Peters told, after hearing Zuckerberg’s response.
We wouldn’t be too sure.
There have been a number of lengthy explanations of the technical limitations considering research projects of this scale, which have also pointed out how easy it would be to detect this practice, if it were true. But there are still those people out there who believe things to be true since they are feel true.
And at the end of the working day, the fact that this conspiracy refuses to die says something about how Facebook users view the company: as a stalker that sneaks on their privacy, and then can’t be believed when it tells you,” no, trust me, we don’t do that .”
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