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Privacy fears over Facebook's new audio recognition app

Facebook has moved quickly to calm fears that its new audio recognition app threatens the user's privacy.

Available on iOS and Android smartphones, the Shazam-like app, allows users to "identify TV and music instantly" using the built-in microphone. The app records ambient sounds and then tells the user which song or TV show is playing.

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Head of Facebook's security infrastructure team, Gregg Stefancik, has denied that the company is attempting to record user activity or even private conversations. "First and foremost, the feature is opt-in for users," he said. "We're not doing it without the user consent."

The app, which is currently only available in the United States, creates an "audio fingerprint" from recorded sounds and then matches this against Facebook's database of songs and TV shows. The user is then given the option to share this information through their own social media channels.

"If there's a match, we return what the match is to the user [and] give them the option of posting the match," Stefancik added. "The user is in complete control and the audio fingerprint that we've received is disposed of immediately. The raw audio never leaves the phone and the data about the match is only stored if you choose to post it."

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While the company stressed that the microphone was not always on and that data was not linked to your profile without permission, the news that the social media giant retains information on particular TV shows and songs for their own database is likely to concern some.

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.