Facebook has issued a statement denying mounting rumours that the company uses smartphone microphones to listen in on private conversations. The allegations have circled for some time, but have most recently been voiced by Kelli Burns, a mass communication professor at the University of South Florida.
In her own testing, Professor Burns said that after discussing certain topics within earshot of her phone, she would then see ads relating to those topics on Facebook. Just like the OK, Google feature of Android, the Facebook app does have a feature that listens out for user input, but the company says this data is not stored and certainly not used for ads.
The social network does not beat about the bush in denying the claims that have resurfaced recently. In a statement it said: "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".
The company goes on to say: "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."
While the fact that Facebook has taken the time to respond to the allegation certainly works in the company's favour, it is unlikely to completely calm the fears of those who have their suspicions about what might be happening in the background.