Facebook is listening to your data--to all of our data, all at once. They have locations, searches, clicks, messaging, photos, hashtags, and any other form of browsing patterns for everyone in your country, everyone in your neighboorhood, everyone in the same room as you.
They have enough data with such advanced analysis that on occasion they can get really close what you're thinking/doing without you explicitly telling them. They're doing this frequently enough to creep a lot of people out and they're only going to get better at it over time.
What we have here is something like Turing test for privacy: a sufficiently advanced amount of data and analysis will be indistinguishable from surveillance.
It's simply unnecessary to listen with a microphone.
Edit: found this slide from F8 in 2015 where they said they store 300PB and process 10PB (with a P) of data per day https://www.instagram.com/p/0tUjrQKH6R
We like to pretend we're unique and powered by free-will but the reality is most things you do are fairly easy to track and predict.
We're not in 1984, but certainly the capability is _already_ there. The difference between us and 1984 is only really one of intent, and you can guess how long that'll last.
I'm not convinced intent isn't there; I'm also confused why'd you assume that. As a free software activist, I wonder have you every checked EFF or FSF websites. I'm not saying EFF and FSF are saving the world (no, they are not) but if you browse what they're dealing with, you can easily see the intent is there. It is simply hard to do all these without people thinking intent is not there, which is why nothing is done as explicitly as 1984. For example, Windows 10 has built-in ads, INSIDE operating system, your OS, which you already paid quite a price, forces you see ads; and tracks your behavior "to optimize user experience". People are not worried about this since ads are such an integral part of our lives. But Microsoft perfectly intents to track which websites I visit, what do I eat, what do I like, where would I go. Maybe you can say intention is "different" as in in 1984 they use my personal information to prosecute me, whereas this is not what Microsoft is after. Well, then this brings us to some Foucoult reading. In a world where all my information collected what is the difference between using all my information for a specific cause, when this cause can change just tomorrow. What if NSA asks Microsoft to give bunch of people's data? (we all know this already happened, but it is better practice to ask questions)
I am a programmer, I use my computer all the time, pretty much every single awake moment of mine. I don't want to be watched. But as you said it is depressingly hard to achieve this, since it feels like only 0.1% of the population shares this same desire. Most people are okay being watched, and this is part of the problem.
I'll skip the futurama reference for now, but for me ads are far rarer than in the 90s. Adblock handles most things online, iPlayer, Netflix and amazon don't really have adverts on TV (they have a graphical menu but I would call that an advert), Spotify doesn't have adverts. Sure there are a few adverts if I go to somewhere like london, and Sainsbury's advertise their own deals in store, and of course products on the shelf are adverts in of themselves, but the only advert I have seen in the last 24 hours was one raising awareness of cistic fibrosis in a billboard outside of Sainsbury's. Oh and the train announcement saying "the on board shop is open for teas coffees and light refreshments". There wouldn't have been any product placement in the episode of once upon a time I watched last night either.
The TV jingles I remember from childhood are still etched in my brain, the adverts I see in this decade are ones I hunt out depberatly (the John Lewis Xmas advert for example, or film trailers, or something about amazon delivery people stealing your sofa that was recommended at work)
I did see adverts on Saturday night when we went to see Thor. I don't recall what was advertised other than odeon limitless, the trailers are adverts too of course, alas they don't really work - we'd rather see more films at the cinema than we do now, but getting babysitting is a pain. We missed Spider-Man and kingsmen for example.
If anything there are more opportunities to avoid adverts than ever before.
If you haven't been to London recently I understand you might say there are a few ads, but lately I have really begun to notice just how prevalent they are. The tube is absolutely plastered with them - in the train carriages, the escalators, the tunnels between platforms. Construction work fences are covered in ads. And this is for thousands of people who travel 30-45mins two times every day, completely filled with ads. You don't necessarily pay them much attention every day, but they definitely have an effect on which companies, brands and even theatre performances pop into my head first.
On top of this, I took a flight to Heathrow last night and there were ads on the plane, ads all over the arrivals area as you walk to the taxi rank. In the Uber home I noticed the motorway connecting Heathrow and London has bright electronic billboards one after the other - it never seems to end.
I just wanted to give some perspective on what the commuter experience is like in London (and I'm sure in other large cities, too). It may feel like you experience less ads personally, but that may not be representative of the general public.
The apps you mentioned are a select few (admittedly good examples of how TV ads have gone down) , but most free apps now rely on some kind of advertising model to be profitable. Almost every social media platform forces ads into your timeline. Perhaps we just don't tend to notice how pervasive they are.
I did notice adverts on a flight from delhi last month on the front of a film, but it's very rare I'll watch anything on a plane's entertainment system, partly because of things like adverts.
Product placement also appears to be rampant (despite you mentioning it explicitly in your post) - many shows highlight specific vehicles and brands, or specific phones, brands of food...
Another one I’ve found is lots of blogs (particularly food ones) have sponsored entries. So you have someone writing about food ad having recipes that use a particular brand of harissa, or a particular food processor.
All these things are advertising, and are mostly heavily targeted too.
It's really not THAT hard to stay off the grid.
Do I mind? Not really. Probably because I can't point out a single one.
I am not sure I agree with that. I think the vast majority of people react to the same way to surveillance, they at most don't like it, or outright hate it.
But most people are not conscious of this surveillance. If there was a guy following them absolutely everywhere, all day long, and logging on a notepad everything they do and everything they say, they would go absolutely mad. It's just that current surveillance, through cookies, CCTVs, server side logging, is too stealth for people to notice.
Implies only one can be right. There doesn't have to be only one answer.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
You're very right about this observation. That being said, I'm kind of tired of the 1984 meme because the state of things and the way we seem to be heading looks nothing like the future presented in 1984. In fact, if we are expecting dystopia to present itself like the one portrayed in 1984 it might obscure the fundamental issues and complexities that our society faces. Brave New World, on the other hand, has a better chance of helping us reveal them.
I don't know which services provide this or how they gather data, but the thought of anyone being able to download a detailed file on you with only an email or phone number is scary.
Prior to that there were phone books and whilst you could choose to be delisted clearly a lot of people didn’t since the books were so thick!
I thoroughly agree that privacy is important but I don’t think people ever really minded very much or if they did not enough to do something about it like lobby for laws to ensure personal addresses are not disclosed publicly.
It takes only 33 bits of distinctive information to identify a given person. Specific information about a person, including background, can help provide further information on them -- it tells you where to look (and more importantly, a very good idea as to where not to), who to talk to, and what they might have done.
"If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged."
- Cardinal Richelieu (a/k/a Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu et de Fronsac)
"the forced revelation of information makes individual privilege and power more important. When everyone has to play with their cards on the table, so to speak, then people who feel like they can be themselves without consequence do so freely -- these generally being people with support groups of like-minded people, and who are neither economically nor physically vulnerable. People who are more vulnerable to consequences use concealment as a method of protection: it makes it possible to speak freely about controversial subjects, or even about any subjects, without fear of harassment."
(Yonatan Zunger is the former chief architect of Google+.)
If you google my name, you will find my family (parents, sibling), their home address, phone numbers, ages, occupations. It is local.
Upon release or through veiled communication, I or my family members could easily be targeted for harm by inmates or former inmates.
This is a very real concern for me. I have found no way to permanently remove this information from search results.
I encourage people to think more creatively when they cannot think of potential disadvantages of easily searchable personal information.
I, and the people I love, have public political opinions on the internet, and SWATting is a thing.
I can either keep my address a secret (and I do; I use my PO Box whenever possible), or I can decline to participate in public civic discourse and encourage the people I love to do the same.
To what end?
I can't think of a situation when someone might need my address and not being able to get it from me directly.
There are also possible physical safety issues, especially in a country like the US were people seem to have guns and are willing to use them.
I miss Sweden’s transparency and widespread’s trust.
Much less is to be assumed about you, like just your name.
Versus the country you live in, state/province/territory, city/village/township, neighborhood, etc.
Think about it: tomorrow is Monday. How many folks on this board will be working on analytics and tracking once they get in to the office? A lot of us, guaranteed. And how many of us will take a principled stand, swearing not to work on products until surveillance features are removed? A few of us, guaranteed.
We're living in both 1984 and Brave New World.
See this illustration between 1984 and Brave New World.
Even if they just knew the price of the purchase, combined with the job (burn risk) and location data (traveled from work to nearest store with pharmacy during the day), it's possible that you might be able to infer a burn with enough accuracy to be valuable to advertisers.
It's not possible, it's simply true. In fact, this feature of the facebook ad platform is available to any advertiser on Facebook/Instagram/etc, whether you have $100 to spend or $100M.
You simply upload your customer's purchases to Facebook with data such as zip code, email, etc etc which Facebook then uses to optimize your advertising budget and find more customers similar to the ones you already have (the feature is called look-alike audiences).
If Google has access, I am sure Facebook does it.
They have billions of users, billions of ads, and trillions of pieces of metadata. Sifting through that to produce a guess like "User 1234 burned themselves and would be interested in product 5678" would be an amazing and scary piece of AI.
Not to mention that Facebook are limited by the ads they can sell. The manufacturer of the burn cream doesn't give Facebook a bucket of money and free reign. They choose how and where the ads are shown. There is currently no option for "Users who recently burned themselves".
From the links that m_ke posted, facebook already has ties to loyalty card information, so it's very possible that they didn't need to do any inference, they just had the data directly.
In any case, the main point is that facebook doesn't need to listen to what people are saying, it has a ton of other data streams that could explain the stories in the link.
Like the article says, it's probably just the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon* at work. It's like when you buy a new car - you suddenly start seeing that same model of car everywhere.
To me, advertising a product to people who already bought it is a sound strategy. I see no contradiction. I'd rather like to hear a cogent argument as to why that is wasted effort, as is usually implied.
In your example, maybe I left the bottle of burn cream at the office. So I will want to get another one on the way home. It's effective to get reminded in my Facebook about that item (and the brand) isn't it? Yes it's creepy but it works.
The same could be said for any of those data streams. But just because Big F has access to those other sources of data doesn't mean it excludes voice recognition.
I'd be very surprised if FB wasn't in this arena. That's how big tech companies work these days — they do what everyone else is doing. Like getting into self-driving cars.
Apple, Google, Amazon, MS, etc... all have voice recognition boxes. FB doesn't need to market a box for your living room, it already has one in everyone's pocket.
( Apple says it doesn't use any of your Siri words against you. If you don't trust FB's word, you might no trust Apple's, either. But at least on the Mac you can keep dictation off the internet, if you choose.)
I’ve had an account since 2005, even if I use it much less than I used to, you’d think they’d have enough data to do better than that.
Building this kind of predictive models is not black magic. This is what companies do to figure out who they should target on direct marketing campaigns. Applying some magical deep learning dust can quite likely improve the results (in Facebook scale), but it's not mandatory. Computationally the hardest part is building the models. Once they are done, applying them to millions and millions of customers is more straight forward.
When considering what is possible, you need to also consider the stakes. Facebook ad revenue is something like $10 billion per quarter. To make more money, I can think of three ways: add more users, make users spend more time looking at their feed or make more money per ad slot. Better targeting means more money per ad slot since some customers are paying directly based on the clicks. Since improvements lead to better revenue, extra hardware costs are easy to justify.
P(product_class=bandage | job=factory_worker, pharmacy_visit_last_month=1) >> P(product_class=bandage)
Now your loyalty card data is worth twice as much. Once to the retailer for internal marketing, targeting, purchasing, etc... and again selling it to outside parties.
There's a reason they got so dominant over here - they were simply way ahead of the game on offering what their customers actually wanted, because they were the only people who actually had a clue.
That has of course changed now.
This is simply not true with respect to the big retailers in the US. This started as far back as '06, though the details of the implementation have changed a bit.
Coincidentally, I recently had a friend convey a story where the Facebook app suddenly recommended a new connection immediately after certain information was spoken in a verbal conversation. This instance was particularly damning because, due to the sensitivity of the information that was spoken, it had been very carefully kept out of the digital footprint.
Once Facebook recommended me to connect to guy with an interesting name, and I wondered where I saw this name before. I looked up my emails, and I saw that I bought something from him on eBay several years earlier. I know I never gave Facebook access to my mail account, but guess what, I'm pretty sure the guy gave access to his. Facebook saw that we sent mail to each other, and it asked me if I wanted to be FB friends with this random eBayer...
I had this happen personally. Had a conversation about my work with this girl I know which ended up being mostly about project management. The girl told me later she started getting ads for project management stuff.
It's not a subject she's interested in, has ever searched for information on, and has no relevance to her job working the counter at a sandwich shop. We have no social media accounts in common and don't even talk that often.
Also wouldn't a constant stream of audio - even low quality audio - ruin battery life? I realise it's a phone so it's base usage is a constant stream of audio but I can't help but feel that or something else would be giving it away.
As they have a bug bounty program I imagine there's plenty of people watching raw network activity between app and Facebook too.
Facebook is a well-known battery hog, at least on iOS. I can't imagine their devs are any better at Android.
Sorry to 'actually' you but that's phrased like Clarke's third law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
However, as you said, they don't need to. Localization and usage metrics alone can tell you an incredible amount of extremely detailed information.
For foreground, I suppose it'd be fairly trivial to tell if the app was making calls to AVAudioRecorder.
The basic thing you need to make people comprehend: to learn a fact X, you don't have to actually learn it - it's enough for you to learn about such Y that P(X|Y) >> P(X). And you don't have to learn Y either, you have to learn V and W such that P(Y|W) >> P(Y) and P(Y|Z) >> P(Y). Etc. This method applies recursively.
And once they comprehend the causality graph this forms, you need to make them understand just how much information we radiate all the time, and how humans are still very inefficient in doing the calculations mentioned above with all that data. Facebook is only the tip of an iceberg; it's only going to get worse from here, because modern technology keeps letting us explore the causality graph even further and faster.
Unfortunately, I don't think they would. They'd get a slap on the wrist fine, maybe have one or two senior executives resign, they'd post a mea culpa, saying how they now it was wrong and promise to do better, and then everyone would forget about it a few weeks later when some new thing started to dominate the news cycle.
It's a pretty easy test - they just said "cat food" a bunch of times and ads for cat food came up in their feed the next day. I'm sure if you were interested you could probably do the same experiment with some other product you've never posted about or talked about online and come up with similar results. It seems strange that you would just assume that the people who are bringing up this issue are simply misinformed, or do not also know that facebook also looks at other parts of their data. I think most lay people understand how data mining is leveraged these days.
I'd like to point out that this video doesn't actually provide any evidence that Facebook was listening.
They said they talked about cat food all day, then they showed an ad on Facebook for cat food.
There's no way to verify that they didn't make the video of the cat food ad on Facebook and then talk about cat food all day.
Nor is there any evidence that they talked about cat food all day at all. No recording of the conversations etc.
In fact I'm a little confused about how this is even a question.
I'm not a programmer so I don't know, but: Wouldn't it be trivial for someone who knows how to write Android software to monitor if an an application is accessing the audio input device?
I mean, I know that on Linux you can monitor whether or not a device is being opened.
Why doesn't someone check if Facebook is accessing the audio input?
As soon as you start assuming that the OS is giving the facebook app access to the microphone regardless of whether you allowed it in the settings, things start to get absurd
Or even by MITMing the connection and looking at the network packets. But yes, it's not outside the realms of possibility to hook into the microphone driver on a rooted Android phone and check when it's being activated.
I'm not one to leap to Facebook's defence and if this is happening it needs to be shut down ASAP, but I suspect that there would be at least some credible evidence out there if it were indeed the case.
I feel like there'd be hundreds of these videos if it was real. How many people tried to make this video and it didn't work? I hope someone buys 10 new phones, opens 10 new Facebook accounts, and does some statistically rigorous testing.
The same is true for the random YouTuber ;)
To be a scientific test it needs a list of products, and then randomly assign half into a study group and half in to a control group. Then talk all the time about stuff in the study group but not the control group. And see if there is a statistically significant difference between the ads shown for products in the study group vs the control group.
Explaining away doesn't explain. For an average, normal FB user, this was as scientific as they could get. It would be nice to see someone repeat the experiment with a pro-hacker type on hand and a packet sniffer ++.
There are too many people giving a company like fb, who have form on the implementation of morally and ethically dubious practices, the benefit of the doubt, all the while dismissing any and all claims of users. It looks fishy at best, and I'm not name calling, it isn't allowed on this forum, but there are a disproportionate number of FB defenders popping up wherever this story surfaces.
But I guarantee you there are hundreds of pro-hacker types not giving facebook the benefit of the doubt. They're reverse engineering the apps, monitoring API calls from rooted phones, monitoring network traffic, etc. There are entire forums of people dedicated to hacking on android and finding rooting methods, etc.
There are tons of security researchers in academia desperate for a nice paper, eagerly looking for something juicy like facebook app listening to users. In fact these researchers have found that hundreds of android apps are listening to you. But facebook isn't on that list.
The EFF has tons of smart people eager to dig into any little privacy mistake that a major company makes. They for sure would launch a huge lawsuit against facebook if this came out, and they very likely have some researchers looking into whether there's any listening.
Why haven't you heard about all the pro-hacker research into facebook's spying? Because they have all found no spying, because there isn't any. They don't want to publish that they found nothing, because then it would look like they're defending facebook, and these pro-hacker types don't like facebook and don't want to defend them.
So is Google. What makes FB even creepier is that they don't just watch everything people do, but they manipulate people in controlled experiments to extract as much money from them as possible.
You just described A/B testing. This is a technique used by every successful company. The only thing unique about Facebook is the data.
Definitely. Basically every major website has facebook code on it for social sharing and for "analytics". Facebook surely uses this analytics data to track you from site to site and know exactly what you're looking at. If your browser is signed into facebook, they know exactly who you are too.
There's an issue of whether facebook is, despite what they say, doing some sort of data analysis that's relevant to advertising, in addition to all the other listening and analyzing they do with the rest of our data.
What’s surveillance if not “sufficently advanced amount of data”? They’re indistinguishable becaus they are the same.
Facebook isn’t “collecting data”. It really is following you.
If I had to give my father some reasons why this should concern him, I'd come up blank. Maybe you can fill in a few.
Imagine that the same information is now available on all people to many giant companies, some with almost government like spheres of influence, you can see the potential for manipulation grow.
The other part of Facebook in particular is that they sell that leverage to advertisers.
An example of that would be the possibility that Russia influenced the US election. Whether or not it happened in either direction, the concept and possibility is something to be worried about.
The reason we should still care even though it seems ubiquitous already is because we messed up by getting here, but we can still fix it.
That's why employers requiring social media information is illegal in a dozen states or so. (Illinois, I know for sure. There are others.)
Once I realized that, it was hard to think of reasons why their actions are wrong.
I disagree that the threat of outrage is sufficient to stop the information being used badly. For example, there is outrage against Equifax, but their cache of information has still been compromised. We have seen data leak after data leak from various companies. If a country's spy agencies want to go after the data, they have a lot of resources, from hacking to legislation to physical intrusion or coercion.
Add to that, it seems like Facebook doesn't institutionally care about privacy (probably because it is hard to explain something to someone whose paycheck depends on them not understanding it). For example, http://actualfacebookgraphsearches.tumblr.com has some very damaging graph searches. Or people who have been outed as gay by incomprehensible privacy settings.
Facebook is a sieve, and the reason to care about them having a lot of information is the same reason to care about privacy in general.
Actually, only the first two things happened.
It is possible that their source was lying or mistaken, of course.
If we ever come to widespread outrage, it will be much to late. In fact, I don’t think there can be outrage. FB would detect it and make it disappear. Somehow.
Facebook has data sharing agreements with many, many companies. It's most likely that the cream was bought with a card then linked together with your facebook profile. It's not that hard, especially when you use the same email identifier for all those loyalty cards you have.
A video that explains what Facebook does https://www.ted.com/talks/zeynep_tufekci_we_re_building_a_dy...
I figured that youtube got the credit card info from the purchase but I was shocked at how quickly that translated into something showing on the screen. I've always thought about these things in the back of my mind but this was still eye opening for me.
I'd never had it happen to me personally since I aggressively block all ads :)
Was the pharmacy a national chain, regional, local, or one-off?
In my experience in data exchanges with other large companies, data is usually shared and processed in batches where even an hour lag would be considered "very quick".
I don't know if you can say that for sure or not.
Regardless of whom shares customer data with whom, this whole issue has a number of legal/compliance issues beginning with HIPAA. The pregnancy test purchase, when anonymized, is just a sales data point, sure. When combined with identifying your girlfriend, and then giving that data to a third party (especially for non health-care treatment or paying claims needs), is most certainly illegal. If she had purchased a Coke, then no, but given she purchased a health-related product it falls into a myriad of laws that govern health care privacy.
The funny thing is, this is a horrible use of ad data. With a few exceptions (luxury cars being one, making someone feel good about their purchase) showing ads for a product someone just bought is the height of uselessness.
Facebook and YouTube are selling ads to people who have already bought their product.
The advertiser certainly has all the data necessary to see if it's profitable or not to do those seemingly counterintuitive ad campaigns.
So if I pay for petrol with a card and also buy donuts and coffee the bank and the shop cannot market to me according to what I bought, but if I join a loyalty card scheme then I'm opting in and the shop can, but not the bank.
In Norway btw, where govt. are strict about this sort of thing.
It sounds like someone is trying to game the advertiser by correlating ad views with sales.
Shhh. If advertisers realize how utterly wasted most of their advertising spending is you'll destroy about 80% of "tech" companies and plunge the world into a global recession.
(Is it really easier to believe that we, the "smart techies" of HN, just know so much more and can see so much more clearly than everyone else?)
What ways do you think they company might be able to use that information to sway the outcome of the election (passively or actively), and do you think there is a greater than zero chance they would try to do this?
Personally, I am so used to corp speak and word play by major companies that it is difficult to take anything at face value. Therefore, I think the nature of the question asked to Facebook should be different. It should be on what they do rather do they do X. So, here's my question - "What does Facebook use data gathered from user microphones across any devices for?"
In a statement issued on June 2nd , Facebook said it "does not use your
phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed."
If they had said something like "We don't use microphones to gather data to drive personalisation on users profiles" there would be comments here on HN complaining about corporate speak and how they didnt just flat out deny using it for advertising.
Apps get busted for doing dodgy things all the time. The Facebook app has been decompiled and network traffic inspected and studied so often that if this actually was true then it would have been proven by now. Instead, all we have is this weird 'survivorship bias' where one time someone said something out loud there was a tangentially related ad on FB.
Today I was looking up bars in Budapest and found one on Google. I started looking at images, at the only one that loaded so far on the slow internet was of food. "Wow, Google knows me so well. All I care about right now is food and the first image it loads is of food" I said out loud to my friend. Eventually the internet caught up and the rest of the images that loaded were of food. It only showed me food photos (in a bar thats more known for its decoration and alcohol). Nothing more than a coincidence.
"What does Facebook use data gathered from user microphones across any devices for?"
That particular question, in context of these allegations, would presuppose that they use microphone data for something other than what the user clearly is aware of, e.g. voice chat.
So an answer like "to provide users the service they need" would undeniably be spun by media to be: Facebook uses microphone to tweak news feed. The longer the answer is, the more likely it can be misunderstood and taken out of context.
You shouldn't expect a public company to answer questions like that, simply because the media will gladly take the answer out of context. You need to phrase it specifically, so they can answer without being misunderstood.
The question does not presume any misuse. It just leaves no room for implications.
"Apple gave us this permission because early versions of Apple Watch
were unable to adequately handle the level of map rendering in the Uber
app," an Uber representative, Melanie Ensign, told Business Insider.
"Subsequent updates to Apple Watch and our app removed this dependency,
and we're working with Apple to remove the API completely."
Inside the app I believe they can record whenever, without the banner appearing.
Edit: Actually, FB will ask for microphone permission if try to record a video. Based on every other app that records video also prompts for permission to record using the microphone, I'm lead to believe the microphone permission is required on iOS if you want to record video.
FB Messenger does not prompt for Microphone until you record a video or voice memo.
I can see "Messenger" and "Instagram" with access to microphone.
iOS also shows an indicator if an app is using the microphone. This is true even for built-in Apple apps like Voice Memos. There's no way to surreptitiously record.
The banner won’t show if the app using the mic is in the foreground.
EDIT: User 'crucifiction' makes a good point about needing the transcript to use it for voice recognition. So, who knows.
It doesn't in any sense justify collecting data and being so elusive about their intent. We naturally have reason to get the impression that Facebook just wants the data, will try anything it can to keep collecting it until so much energy has been invested in the PR issues that the collection has an attributable effect on their market.
But maybe they are using the voice data to change the world for the better and bring people together yada yada! :)
>That's pretty fucking clear to me.
Said nobody who understands law, language, or politics. It's absolutely fucking clear to everyone who reads with discrimination what this means. It means they are using your microphone to vacuum up your information. That they added the qualifier "..to inform ads or to change what you see in the News Feed" gives them the verbal and legal wiggle room they need to do absolutely anything they want with your information. For example, they could use your microphone to monitor, record and quantify everything they hear to "adjust a user profile" that they keep on all users. In that case, they could simply claim that the ads you see and the news feed you get are based on your user profile.
>How could they respond to remove all doubt they're listening?
They could very simply. "We do not listen to your microphone or record content, data, or metadata from your microphone in any circumstance". Without qualifiers of any kind.
In this case, when I read a sentence like "We don't use your microphone for ads" I end up doing that game where you re-read the sentence over and over and emphasize a different word each time, trying to guess which one is the magic word.
The risk is incredibly high, and the payoff not that great.
What we're seeing is simply that people fail to understand how much data they leak, and how effective Facebook is at putting it all together. They assume it must be magic, listening to their words, listening to their thoughts, but the reality is they don't need to, because we are _voluntarily_ telling them all this info already.
Somehow this kind of phrasing turns several lights bright on my bullshit detector.
I guess another possible explanation is some very sophisticated combination of location tracking and Kellogg’s targeting people they know will be primed by that promotional item. And then of course it could always just be an amazing coincidence.
All I know is I revoked microphone permission after that.
EDIT: Something just occurred to me. Facebook doesn’t have to be the one using your microphone to target ads. The ad buyers just have to have a way to match your phone to your ID (which they can easily; there was a site posted here a while back that sells that) and then listen in through ANY one of the apps you have installed. If this were the scheme, Facebook could reasonably get away with saying “WE don’t use your microphone to target ads.”
More on-topic: I recall reading that the Facebook app would activate the microphone when one was posting a status update, apparently listening for things like a movie playing in the background and such.
ETA: Related Snopes articles:
Like you, I have gotten pretty good at noticing "weasel words" and such in the government's statements (denials). It is clear that they take their time to make sure they word their statements ever so carefully.
Horrible battery life?
> Remember the time they kept the app open in the background on iOS devices by sending an empty audio buffer to the phone for playback?
> People started discovering that after iOS introduced the battery/power usage section in the Settings app.
They couldn't do it 24/7, of course, but they could certainly take "samples" at regular intervals or in certain locations or something. From my own experience, it doesn't seem that Facebook has ever been worried about battery life or preserving it.
Because they'd get hit by huge lawsuits and fines from governments all over the world. Europe is especially hungry to fine US companies for privacy issues.
Also it would be terrible for their reputation. Hordes of people would uninstall the app, and even delete their accounts. I would for sure.
The "People you may know" anecdote below is, similarly, some combination of location, wifi sniffing, luck, and confirmation bias.
If there was some third party ad library that was installed across multiple apps that streamed audio and/or performed local speech recognition on everything you said don't you think somebody would have a) noticed by now, b) a security researcher figured it out, or c) everyone's battery's would be running red hot all of the time.
Teams at Apple and Google reverse engineer and debug the top 100 apps on their platforms all the time (there are teams dedicated to doing it). Facebook is also not the NSA - people leak stuff from them all the time. You're suggesting that either everyone is complicit in this, or there's a conspiracy so large and technically complex that it's managed to be kept secret all this time with no technical evidence outside of anecdotes.
I’m not sure I trust that security researchers can be relied upon to catch everything. There are so many flagrant abuses of user privacy that go unchecked or remarked upon and nevertheless ignored that such an avenue of prevention seems highly unreliable.
Also you’d be surprised at what people are willing to do when you define a certain culture and incentive structure. While you may dismiss it, I find it frankly astounding that the NSA program managed to metastasize into the behemoth it became before it was finally outed to the public. And even a cursory reading of behavioral psychology will help to explain how that can happen.
I also know that Facebook perversely prioritizes metrics above pretty much all else. And it means they’re perfectly willing to indulge in dark patterns if the numbers line up.
Once they have a business model that does not revolve around selling data about their users to their customers, claiming they don't spy can be something other than a bad punchline.
Anyway, I want a LED on my camera and microphone. And a hardware switch.
now, I also remember them writing that they only listen when the app is open and a status is being written, but I'm not sure about that statement. Anyhow, the key thing is that Facebook does overtly and publicly use your microphone with its app.
I suspect Facebook is falling in that same boat - technically following rules so they can answer questions the right way. But we're not seeing the smirks on their faces as they give that answer.
I was in the car with my friend once (both our phones were in the car with us too), and we were driving and it started raining. His wiper blades were shoddy and doing a bad job of clearing his windscreen. We had a 5 minute discussion on cleaning blades, where was the best place to get a replacement, etc. Neither of us picked up our phones, or did a search on 'wiper blades', nor asked Siri etc. about nearest places to buy.
But the next day, for the first time ever, I started seeing ads for wiper blades on my feed. They disappeared after a few days, but it was spooky, as it was for an item that I have never ever discussed, or seen on my feed before, or since.
Another anecdote. I was sitting working in my office the other day, when my son came in to talk to me about something. While chatting, he picked up a bass guitar that sits behind my desk and started playing the riff from 'Seinfeld'. I may have said something like "Oh, the Seinfeld theme - you know that was played on a synth and not an actual bass guitar?". Our conversation though, was about something else altogether.
A day later, on my feed, I see an ad about "How they played the Seinfeld theme" . A totally specific ad like that, within 24 hours, totally unrelated to any searched I had done in my past. This one too disappeared within a couple of days.
 - https://twitter.com/dsabar/status/924763005014831104
Could be something like this: Facebook knows from location data you were driving/riding together. Soon after your ride, your friend searches for wiper blades. Facebook then shows you wiper blade ads based on that knowledge.
1. It is just as unscientific as saying that Facebook MUST be listening, without finding any evidence in the workings of phones, app source code, etc. Almost by definition, there is no experimental evidence for the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.
2. It posits that everyone who has experienced this is unsophisticated and ignorant about cognitive distortion. Clearly, some people who believe that Facebook is listening to them talk also believe that there were no planes on September 11th, etc. However, many many people today have a good understanding of psychology, are well aware of (basic) cognitive biases, have thought about these experiences. People also have experiences of unlikely events but which have well understood or easy-to-estimate probabilities, which didn't occur much historically. Lots of people can distinguish quite well between their own illusory biases and events which are coincidental, but not 'in the mind'. Some of these people seem to also believe their speech has found its way into advertisers' profiles.
Not really, it just suggests people aren't perfect statisticians and perfect at recording information. Which we aren't.
> People also have experiences of unlikely events but which have well understood or easy-to-estimate probabilities
The probability of seeing a relevant advert is not something we can easily estimate.
> Lots of people can distinguish quite well between their own illusory biases and events which are coincidental,
I would be shocked if this was even a reasonable percentage of people. I am certainly not a perfect innate statistician with perfect recall, and I think most other people are not either. Humans are just bad at this stuff.
> which didn't occur much historically.
I'd be shocked at anyone with a very solid recall of all the adverts they see.
Without strong evidence, this seems like a perfectly reasonable base view. It'd be a complex, expensive, power and data hungry way of targeting adverts, extremely controversial and possibly illegal. There's no evidence they're actually doing it, no whistleblowers, and many of their adverts are just terribly targeted.
People here are bringing up examples like a young couple being advertised a pregnancy test. Hardly requires invasive monitoring of a billion people to achieve.
Since then, my feed has been a bland sea of adverts for mattresses, knives etc. that almost all of my friends complain about seeing.
I don't use ad blockers, due to my development work in web apps etc. I like my browsers to be as stock as possible, and I do actually at least glance at nearly all ads I see in FB etc. just to see how their targeting is being skewed by my search history or messaging online.
These were two quite distinct cases of ads that I've never seen before, which popped up within 24 hours of me talking about (but not doing anything else online related to them) and then disappearing soon after.
Sure, an anecdotal sample size of 2 could just be pure coincidence, but something about it still doesn't sit right with me.
If they really are using audio for ad targeting like they do with search history, then it should be easy enough to prove it by experiment.
But wiper blades is so off the charts for me, that I was totally surprised to see about 3 ads for them the day after I had a discussion in the car. I don't even go to sites remotely associated with the automotive industry. Not even locality based, as it was a full 4 months out of the real 'wet season' we have later in the year. (NOTE: Not even in our wet season did I see random ads for wiper blades).
Having said that, I won't be surprised to see more wiper blade ads now that I have been talking about it on HN - who knows if they have linked up the data from online forums back to FB etc.? The handle I use here I tend to use on nearly all online forums I belong to.
You are doing yourself a disservice. Have two users (or at least two browsers), one for work, which you keep ad-blocker free, and one for life, which you shouldn't.
The link about friends search history and close GPS co-ordinates also makes sense.
Later on when I checked my phone I started getting ads in the Facebook feed for windscreen repairs.