Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has dismissed allegations that the company is mining audio from users’ mobile devices for targeting ads. The revelation was made during a joint hearing of the US Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committee in the wake on Facebook data privacy scandal. Zuckerberg was replying to a question by Republican Senator Gary Peters who asked whether Facebook is mining audio from its users’ mobile devices for the purpose of ad targeting.
“Well, senator, let me be — let me be clear on this. So you’re — you’re talking about this conspiracy theory that gets passed around that we listen to what’s going on, on your microphone and use that for ads,” Zuckerberg said. The Facebook CEO categorically denied obtaining audio from mobile devices of its users to collect personal information, though he clarified that videos that users share on the platform may have audio added by them to make the service better. He added that Facebook listening to personal conversations on users’ microphone for targeting ads is a “conspiracy theory” that gets passed around.
“So I’ve heard constituents fear that Facebook is mining audio from their mobile devices for the purpose of ad targeting. Which I think speaks to this lack of trust that we’re seeing here, but — and I understand there’s some technical issues and logistical issues for that to happen. But for the record, I think it’s clear — see, I hear it all the time, including from my own staff. Yes or no, does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about its users?” Gary Peters asked Zuckerberg.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg denies they collect call data
It should be noted that Facebook is allegedly collecting phone call metadata of Android users who’ve granted the service permission to upload contacts. Facebook denied charges explaining that this is an opt-in feature for people using Messenger or Facebook Lite on Android. The feature can be turned off in Settings.
In 2016, Facebook put out a blog post denying allegations made by Kelli Burns, who is a mass communication professor at the University of South Florida, that the service might be listening to users’ conversations to show related ads in their News Feed. “Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed. Some recent articles have suggested that we must be listening to people’s conversations in order to show them relevant ads. This is not true. We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information – not what you’re talking out loud about,” reads Facebook’s post.
Facebook is facing heat over data breach of over 87 million of its users globally, personal information of whom was used by data consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica to influence the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential Elections. Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify before the US Congress on April 11 as well. The first Congressional hearing went on for more than five hours. Facebook has rolled out a new tool that will inform users that have been affected by the data breach.