For years, Facebook users have alleged that the social media giant is spying on their real-world conversations to better target advertising. This time, a UK journalist said he was “creeped out” after suspecting that the social media giant was eavesdropping on two of his conversations. In one, he was on the phone discussing the removal of a tree stump and began receiving ads for stump removal shortly thereafter. In another, he used the words “jetting off” in conversation with his partner about an upcoming holiday. Less than hour later, ads began appearing in his feed for a company called Jet2Holiday.
For its part, Facebook has strongly denied these allegations multiple times, insisting that they only target ads based on users’ interests and other readily available data.
“We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information — not what you’re talking out loud about,” Facebook said in a statement in 2016. “We only access your microphone if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio. This might include recording a video or using an optional feature we introduced two years ago to include music or other audio in your status updates.”
Facebook has been known to stretch the truth about its capabilities before, but the company is most likely telling the truth here. But still, examples like this just go to show how little users trust the company to handle their data properly.
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