Facebook refuted speculation that the social networking site is using its mobile app to spy on conversations of users through the mic of their smartphones and serve ads to the same individuals based on what it overhears. The social media giant has been accused of similar actions in the past and denied them on numerous occasions. The latest denial was made by Rob Goldman, the VP of advertising at Facebook who reiterated via his Twitter account that the company has never used your phone mic to target ads in response to an earlier tweet from tech podcast Reply All.
Allegations that Facebook might be listening in on your conversations all the time for advertising purposes came to light in late May 2016 when Kelli Burns, a professor of mass communication at the University of South Florida, claimed that the Facebook app could be using the mic of your mobile device in an effort to serve you with more relevant ads. The allegation was based on an experimental use of the Facebook app, in which Burns was talking about certain topics while her phone was near her. Later, Burns started seeing ads being displayed on the mobile app that were coincidentally relevant to what she was previously discussing. Although there was no other proof to support her findings, the similarity of the ads to the topics she discussed prior to seeing them offers some sort of clue as to how Facebook targets ads to its users. The company, however, clarified that it helps business organizations serve ads based on the users' interests and other data and not by using mic audio in any shape or form.
The Menlo Park, California-based company has been in privacy-related issues several times in the past, even to the point of having to face lawsuits. In May last year, Facebook was hit with a class action suit for allegedly spying on private messages in search for links that it then supposedly used to deliver targeted ads to users. Facebook, however, denied the accusation and said that its method of collecting URLs was entirely anonymized and not infringing.