Is Facebook spying through your microphone? Easy iPhone trick can tell you
FACEBOOK is constantly accused of spying on us – but is it really listening through your microphone?
Everything points to the answer being no, but you can check for yourself if you have an iPhone.
Accessing a smartphone microphone without your permission would be a huge invasion of privacy.
But time and time again, we see claims of Facebook snooping on your private conversations.
Usually it's linked to seeing an ad on Facebook for a product that you've not searched for – but that you've spoken about in real life.
The good news is that this is very easy to explain as pure coincidence, or by remembering that Facebook knows so much about you without having to listen to your private chats.
If you're not convinced, your iPhone has a trick to check if any apps are using your microphone.
It's a sure-fire way to detect any dodgy behaviour from any app – Facebook included.
How to check for Facebook spying
First, make sure your iPhone is updated to iOS 14 or later in Settings > General > Software Update.
This update adds a "warning dot" that alerts you whenever your microphone or camera is activated.
That means if any app is surreptitiously recording you, you'll know about it.
An orange dot will appear in the upper right corner of the screen when the microphone – or camera – is activated.
If the dot is green, your camera is being used.
By swiping into your Control Centre, you'll be able to see details about which app is using the microphone.
If you suspect something is up, you should check the app's permissions in Settings.
You can deny specific apps access to your microphone or camera, for instance.
And if you're really worried, you could just delete the app altogether.
So is Facebook actually listening to you?
Well the real answer is probably scarier – we (accidentally and purposefully) give Facebook so much info, it doesn't need to "listen in".
People have debated for years whether companies like Facebook are listening in on their conversations.
But there has never been any solid evidence – beyond hearsay and anecdotes – that the social media giant is recording your chats.
Facebook has repeatedly denied the claims, highlighting that it bases the ads you see on your interests and information from your profile.
A number of independent investigations have found no evidence that the US tech titan secretly listens to its users.
Experts say that, while Facebook hoards plenty of data, it's extremely unlikely that the company secretly records hundreds of millions of people.
The key point is that Facebook doesn't have to.
It knows enough about you from your browsing data and profile information to target you with very specific ads.
Facebook has repeatedly and strongly denied that it uses microphone recordings to target ads.
"Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed," a company spokesperson said.
"Some recent articles have suggested that we must be listening to people’s conversations in order to show them relevant ads. This is not true.
"We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information – not what you’re talking out loud about.
"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."
Why does it feel like Facebook is snooping on you?
The magic of targeted advertising is that it should feel relevant to you – even if you can't figure out why.
Facebook doesn't need to spy on your real-life conversations, because you hand over so much information anyway.
Follow this link and you'll be able to download everything Facebook knows about you. Most of you will quickly realise it's a staggering amount of information.
Advertisers can use information gleaned from your activity all across the web, on multiple devices, even if you're not logged into Facebook or other services.
They'll likely know where you live, what you like, who your friends are, how much money you make, your political beliefs and much more.
So when you get ads for something you've talked about out loud, it's almost certainly just advertisers being very good at predicting your interests.
It's also possible that there's an advertising campaign running, and you've seen an ad and not noticed. You've then spoken about it, never realising you've been advertised to, and only then notice future ads – which suddenly seem suspicious.
Let's say you talked about a holiday to Scotland, and then all of a sudden you're being advertised holidays to Scotland.
You may never have searched for anything to do with that before.
But Facebook could use info about your level of wealth, your past holiday interests, the time of year (ads for wintry Scottish retreats are common in the colder months), and your location.
What seems like snooping is actually just clever advertising.
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