Facebook app now listens and records audio when you post updates from your phone

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Just when you think Facebook can’t get any creepier, they push a new feature into one of their apps and prove you wrong. With the most recent update to their mobile app, Facebook can now passively listen in via your phone or tablet’s microphone while you compose a status update.

You may have suspected something was up if you pay attention to the permission notes that pop up when Google Play informs you that your apps need an update. The Facebook app now says it needs permission to access your microphone — along with pretty much everything else an Android app can be granted permission to access.

facebook-permisisons

Don’t worry, though. Facebook says they’re respecting your privacy while they do this. While ambient audio is definitely being recorded, they’re not storing exactly what the microphone picks up. The new feature works just like Shazam does: it tries to match an audio fingerprint from your environment with one in its database. The goal is to figure out if you’re listening to particular song or watching a TV show like The Simpsons.

The other reason you shouldn’t panic is that this feature is totally optional for now. If you don’t want Facebook listening in while you type, you can simply tap no and presumably the app will follow your orders.

Will it always be optional? That seems unlikely, given Facebook’s ravenous appetite for data. Being able to identify any aspect of what you’re doing IRL while you post gives Facebook even more delicious context to sell to advertisers. It’s hard to imagine that they’re going to allow us to keep the microphone plugged forever.

At some point there will be a blog post explaining just how far Facebook goes to anonymize the data that the microphone is recording. It will also detail how useful and cool it is that the app can tell your friends what you’re watching or listening to without you having to peck it in to your status updates one letter at a time.

Just when you think Facebook can’t get any creepier, they push a new feature into one of their apps and prove you wrong. With the most recent update to their mobile app, Facebook can now passively listen in via your phone or tablet’s microphone while you compose a status update.

You may have suspected something was up if you pay attention to the permission notes that pop up when Google Play informs you that your apps need an update. The Facebook app now says it needs permission to access your microphone — along with pretty much everything else an Android app can be granted permission to access.

facebook-permisisons

Don’t worry, though. Facebook says they’re respecting your privacy while they do this. While ambient audio is definitely being recorded, they’re not storing exactly what the microphone picks up. The new feature works just like Shazam does: it tries to match an audio fingerprint from your environment with one in its database. The goal is to figure out if you’re listening to particular song or watching a TV show like The Simpsons.

The other reason you shouldn’t panic is that this feature is totally optional for now. If you don’t want Facebook listening in while you type, you can simply tap no and presumably the app will follow your orders.

Will it always be optional? That seems unlikely, given Facebook’s ravenous appetite for data. Being able to identify any aspect of what you’re doing IRL while you post gives Facebook even more delicious context to sell to advertisers. It’s hard to imagine that they’re going to allow us to keep the microphone plugged forever.

At some point there will be a blog post explaining just how far Facebook goes to anonymize the data that the microphone is recording. It will also detail how useful and cool it is that the app can tell your friends what you’re watching or listening to without you having to peck it in to your status updates one letter at a time.

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