This experiment is so full of flaws it's ridiculous. Here are just some of them:
* Pet food ads are extremely common. The chances of not seeing them are fairly low.
* The likelihood of them choosing that subject at random is also very low. It's more likely that they had seen an ad on the topic recently, but were simply unaware because of its lack of relevance to their lives.
* They didn't do a placebo. They should also have discussed another common subject, away from any phones, then waited to see if they were also served advertisements about that.
* Two days is arguably too long to wait to influence purchasing decisions of much needed groceries.
* Confirmation bias. How many scores or even hundreds of other subjects did they see in the same period that they had not discussed.
At least the "simple" in the title is not misleading.
It’d be so easy to structure a clean experiment to test this. Bad science sucks.
I'm in no way a Facebook shill (I don't even have an account) but I doubt they're silly enough to risk the insane backlash they would get if people caught them spying on conversations when they shouldn't.
I mean, think about it, Facebook would be listening on all their users cell phones all the time, parse it constantly to isolate keywords (not an easy task at this scale, and would probably result in a comical amount of false positives) and then use it to show ads? And all that in complete secrecy?
Furthermore the video is more than two months old now, I'd expect that somebody would have found a harder proof by now, either by snooping on the network or even at the hardware level.
The level of mental gymnastics people are going through to hold their belief is astounding.
This is really unconvincing. How many hundreds of ads were they shown over two days until they were shown one in the category that confirmed their bias? Refreshing Facebook a few times now, I'm shown several ads for products and pages I have zero interest in which I don't search for or talk about.
Wouldn't Facebook randomly recording your conversations be a PR disaster for them as well? Seems like a damning and unfair claim to make with such flimsy evidence.
And to go even further. How many ads of cat food have they seen in the days prior to their experiment that they did not conciously see but that influenced the "random topic" they chose.
My thing is, why does everyone get hung up on listening to the microphone? Facebook surveillance of users and non-users alike is more powerful and creepier than listening in on the microphone!
I mean at least people have some understanding of audio bugs. Nobody really understands the byzantine network of distributed opt-in web trackers and data brokers that Facebook uses to put together its compelling, yet deeply flawed dossier on every person.
A better question may be car-related ads.
I'm curious if anyone has ever actually gone and done the so-called trivial network analysis to check it out?
Also - The Facebook App itself is heavily obfuscated making the task of rooting through the source code very difficult to try and discover what is going on...
Not an easy task at all...
(Although I doubt they are actually recording sound)
Decrypting the SSL traffic is a bit too hard.
That's why every privacy concerned citizen uses chrome with the mbasic.facebook.com url.
People have been claiming Facebook eavesdrops on conversations for years now, yet no one has been able to technically prove it. Facebook is a huge target for people to 'decompile', reverse engineer and sniff network traffic, which has been done multiple times, yet no one has been able to identify this.
This is of course ignoring the fact that its 'supposed' to be impossible for iOS apps to use the microphone without the status bar from going obviously red. It would be extremely surprising if there was a venerability that only Facebook knew about that they were exploiting to bypass iOS.
They could have a really cheap algorithm that just tries to inexpensively match audio fingerprints in windows of audio. I guess if you have trillions of hours of audio it's ok not to inspect every minute to the fullest extent.
It's an interesting problem to think about but as other hackers have mentioned: why would they risk doing it in secret? They could just update the EULA.
Metaphors, I think could have a better result. One that I have thought of is:
If this was a job position, and one candidate could buy their chances of getting picked - would it be fair to the other candidates or the company? It only profits the broker.
Any other convincing argument I can put forward to get them thinking about it?
Ultimately, all arguments come to the fact that "keeping in touch" is so much easier with facebook - and I do not have an alternative that I can propose. Note I use the word argument as any discussion I have tried to initiate becomes an argument very quickly.
In iOS, go to the Settings panel, find Facebook, and slide off the "microphone" option.
On Android, go to "Privacy and Safety" in Settings, find the microphone section under the app permissions panel, and toggle off Facebook's access.
Again, I would be extremely surprised if they've managed to do this without anyone finding out. iOS and Facebook as just too big of a target for this to stay with just them.
What if Facebook is only doing this to people it profiles as non-technical and therefore unlikely to notice it?
Taking the app apart might not even be good enough since in that case those not receiving surveillance may not even have the code for surveillance. (Apple's store technically bans such practices, but this is Facebook we're talking about.)
Still this seems like a good time to point out that mbasic.facebook.com exists.
It sounds to me like the kind of thing targeted at people who believe an article because it has "proves" in the title and one data point in the contents.
I do not think it likely that Facebook could pull this off without either Apple or Google noticing.
But somehow it seems even scarier how much information facebook can scrape without having to record audio. They can read chats and emails, track your location and daily routine, they buy data from credit bureaus, track which sites you visit... And on and on it goes.
Is FB somehow able to hide the notification that the iPhone displays on the top when an app is using the microphone?
They obviously just used deep learning to predict these were the kind of people who would want to do a cheesy video, and predicted cat food was an obvious topic they’d pick.
My first impression was that an always on microphone would murder battery life. Only recording when there is sufficient noise level and batching recordings before uploading might work, though. Plus keyword extractions sounds a lot easier than full speech recognition. A sleeping app I tried before could record background noise to check for snoring and that only added a couple percent of battery usage.
Also, facebook messenger murders battery either way.