Has someone who was in a conversation with you, either face-to-face or else over the phone mentioned something about the products he likes or else about some TV shows that he has started watching or about a new subscription service he’s trying out? Then, the next, have ever scrolled through the Facebook timeline or the Instagram feed soon after your conversation? Perhaps, minutes or hours after the phone call. Then did you see an ad pop up for the real service or the product that you had been talking over the phone? However, the issue of Facebook spying is getting more frequent with time.
However, millions of people have experienced the same situation several times and this means that you aren’t on the web alone. Many people are bothered if Facebook was spying on them and listening to their conversations.
Tyler Mears: “I Was Targeted With This Ad”
A woman named, Tyler Mears who is from Wales, has had the same experience for more than a couple of times. She was targeted with an instant ad soon after a conversation with her partner and her friends. She was sent an ad with a female urination device.
This was impossible to happen since Mears had never searched through the web about such a product. But, she only had a casual conversation and laughing with a few colleagues. But, their conversation was based on this product.
Then she laughed and ignored, but to her surprise, the same thing happened once again. In this case, one of her colleagues sent her a video of a man who was trying to stab a policeman while being arrested. She had then forwarded the same video to her partner and talked about the luck of wearing a stab-proof vest. But, then next, later at night she had once again noticed an ad based on a stab-proof vest.
Facebook Spying: A Conspiracy Theory?
Since listening to the conversions of some apps like Facebook and Instagram by using microphones is not new, advertisements targeted on them are also familiar. Any way the executives of Facebook had turned down the question unanswered since 2016.
The senator Gary Peters asked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a senate in 2018:
“Yes or no, does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about users?”
The answer was “no” without hesitation.
In spite of repeatedly turning down, Zukerberg’s “conspiracy theory” has persisted.
CBS This Morning host Gayle King questioned, Adam Mosseri, the Instagram executive about how an ad for something could appear on her Instagram feed when it is never searched by her. But, the executive had replied saying that the company never look at the messages or listen to conversations over the microphone, saying that it would become a huge problem for a number of reasons.
“But I recognize you’re not gonna really believe me,” he also said.
Of course, it’s hard to believe that these executives are lying at us. But the truth is that they really aren’t. To hear the conversations of the phone is illegal as well as too impractical. They’ll need an unrealistic capacity of data as well as software with the ability to drain and analyze the content of human speech.
If it is so, how does the appearance of an advertisement on Facebook or Instagram occur related to a part on the weekend that you had been talking with your friend?
“Facebook is eavesdropping on you,” says Jamie Court, the president of Los Angeles-based Consumer Watchdog nonprofit. “It’s just in a different way.”
What’s their way of targetting Ads?
Impossible, Facebook does not listen to you, but their methods of collecting data are very sophisticated and complex, that target of advertisements has reached the most accuracy to make us think that it has its own eyes and ears to spy on where we are and what we are talking about.
“They actually have ways of coming to know things about you that we don’t fully understand yet,” explained Same Lavigne, a Brooklyn-based artist who explores the intersection of technology and society.
Well, you could access the explanation about the reasons for seeing ads by clicking the 3 dots in the top right corner of the Facebook ads menu where they say “why you’re seeing this ad.”
Primarily, this happens when you fall into a target audience of a company. Think that a company needs to advertise their product to “women over 18 living in Los Angeles.” So, if you’re one in this category you too would receive an add based on that product.
In addition to that, Facebook’s algorithm once again will know the things which you have in common with your friend who also falls into the same category in which you are. Let’s think that your friend had already interacted with the same ad that you’ve seen, or even bought the product of the company.
Perhaps, Facebook knows that both of you have dogs in common. Maybe you’ve already posted your pics with dogs while you’re with your friend. This makes the Facebook algorithm determine that both of you’re interested in the same product.
So as a result of all the information gathered by Facebook, the company will recognize you as a potential customer and send you the ad. This precise way of collecting data happens very quickly that it makes us doubt about Facebook spying.
According to the explanations by the tech industry veteran, Phil Lieberman artificial intelligence of Facebook engines use visual as well as textual materials that help to determine intent.
“With intent, they can find products and services that you might be interested in. This is all about ‘recommender systems’ similar to what Amazon offers, but FB has more information on an ongoing basis to determine what you might be interested in buying.”
Facebook is tracking you, not listening to you
Whenever you comment, tag, or post a status on Facebook, you provide them with more ammunition to serve you ads.
However, the company admits that it gathers “content, communications, and other information” that you interact with. This includes the videos or the photos you like as well as the hashtags you use and the accounts you follow and the groups to which you’re connected through Facebook.
Not only the things that you do on Facebook are tracked, but also the things that you do on Facebook affiliated apps are also tracked. Maybe the websites or the apps that use Facebook logins, plugins, and widgets. Facebook will track the data from the sites that you’ve used the account to make a subscription or purchase something.
Furthermore, Facebook can also track the places where you go if you give them your permission. This can be done even when the app is closed. But this isn’t so clear as the app isn’t asking if you want them to do this.
If you’ve ever been about to post something on Instagram or Facebook and a pop-up has encouraged you to “Turn on Location Services” to automatically recognize where you are in, and said yes, you’ve allowed them to track your location.
Are we able to limit Facebook’s tracking?
Well, there are some steps that you can follow to limit the company’s ability to track everything you do. You’re given an option to fine-tune what information is shared with advertisers under the “Ads” subsection in the Facebook Ad Preferences section on the Facebook app. This doesn’t mean disabling the collection of data, but this means less sharing to companies and brands.
However, this feature won’t stop you from seeing the ads. Still, you’d be targeted based on your gender, age, location, and other demographic data.
If you need to refuse access to your location, click the “Manage Settings” tab on the app and set the location tracking to “Never.”
By all these facts, it’s quite apparent that we can still make attempts to restrict the permissions of the app. Yet we aren’t allowed to disable the collection of our data on the app. Facebook addresses this on its FAQ page:
“We may still understand your location using things like check-ins, events, and information about your internet connection,”.
What about gaming apps?
Gaming apps such as “Beer Pong: Trickshot,” “Pool 3D” and “Real Bowling Strike 10 Pin” too can track your information to target ads. These gaming apps use a software called Alphonso to track the viewing habits of the users.
This particular software would use your microphone to find out the things that you’re watching by identifying the audio signals in TV ads and shows.
However, Alphonso states that it doesn’t record human speech or else track the locations or get the access to microphones without the permission of the users. Users still can opt-out at any time.
Opt-out when you’re in doubt
So is Facebook spying on the users? Yes of course, but not in the way you think.
The truth is that your data will be collected even if you’re using social media, playing games on your phone, or else using a weather app. So, if you need to limit the information that is being shared with advertisers, it’s ideal for you to quit from social media altogether.
If this option of quitting isn’t what you’re willing to do, then you will have to be alright knowing that your data is being collected.