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Is Facebook listening to your conversations?

There are loads of opinions and conjuncture around the topic of Facebook listening in on our personal conversations. Are you being a bit paranoid or is there truth to it? How can it be a coincidence that you just spoke about buying a new washing machine now an ad for Kogan for washing machines has appeared on your Facebook feed?.

Most of us are convinced that it cannot possibly be a coincidence right?

I know for a fact that I have had conversations about something I don’t normally talk about and a short time later received ads promoting those exact products. It has happened on multiple occasions and I am not alone.

So many people I speak to have had the same experience. But are they listening or are we just losing our minds?

What does Facebook say?

Facebook has been very clear about the matter and says it isn’t using microphone recordings to target ads better. “Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed,” a company spokesperson said.

“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.

“We only access your microphone if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio. This might include recording a video or using an optional feature we introduced two years ago to include music or other audio in your status updates.”

And earlier in 2019 during Mark Zuckerberg’s US Senate grilling over privacy, he gave a resolute “no” when asked if the app snooped on user’s conversations using smartphone microphones.

There’s never been any solid evidence – beyond hearsay and anecdotes – that Facebook is recording your real-life conversations.

So why does it feel like they are listening to you?

I often joke in my workshops that Facebook knows more about you then you know about yourself and there is some truth to that.

It’s possible to track every piece of data that moves in and out of your smartphone over internet connections, so it’s easy for researchers to spot if dodgy data is being transmitted to Facebook servers.

In fact, that’s exactly what Northeastern University did earlier this year for 17,000 apps, including Facebook and 8,000 apps that can send info to Facebook. More than half of these apps had permission to access your phone’s camera and microphone, but none of them were found to be sending off audio files anywhere.

So why does it feel like they are listening to you?

You have heard of targeted advertising, right? These ads are so relevant it can feel a bit to you, even if you don’t know why.

Facebook doesn’t need to spy on your real-life conversations, because you hand over so much information anyway. Every time you click on something, check-in at a location or hide an ad you are giving Facebook more data & information about you.

If you want to know what Facebook knows about you, then have a look at this link  (

Advertisers can use information gleaned from your activity all across the web, on multiple devices, even if you’re not logged into Facebook or other services. They’ll likely know where you live, what you like, who your friends are, how much money you make, your political beliefs and much more.

If you are worried about them snooping, then probably get off Facebook altogether or simply disable microphone access for Facebook. (note: this means you won’t be able to record audio when creating videos or voice clips with Facebook)

But it also means any of your fears about Facebook conversation snooping should be dispelled.

Of course, this doesn’t prove that Facebook is never snooping on you, but the study certainly didn’t prove that Facebook was doing anything untoward. This long-held conspiracy theory has some truth to it as the data just doesn’t add up

While they are certainly using the data they collect, based on everything they know about you, I am not convinced that they are totally innocent in their claims.

What about you? What has been your experience?