Facebook Dismisses Rumors That It Eavesdrops On Your Phone’s Mic To Target Ads

It's been said time and again that if you're not paying for something, then you're the product. That's an oversimplification of how things work, but there's also some truth to the statement, especially in the social media world where services like Twitter and Facebook are free to use. Be that as it may, Facebook insists that it hasn't crossed the line by tapping into people's microphones to deliver targeted ads.

"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," Facebook stated in a blog post.


The only time Facebook says its accesses your microphone is when you've given its mobile app permission to do so, and even then it's only when you're actively using a specific feature that requires audio. That could include recording a video or using an optional feature it introduced two years ago to include music or other audio in your status updates. Otherwise, Facebook claims it isn't listening.

It may seem at times that the opposite is true—Facebook is pretty adept at picking up on your online activities and then delivering ads based on your recent search behavior. To give an example, I once emailed my co-workers that I was sick and felt like I'd been run over by a truck driven by the Mucinex man. It wasn't from an email address directly associated with my Facebook account, but even so, the next time I checked my feed there were Mucinex ads.

So yes, I believe Facebook's hooks are deep into our online lives, but I don't think it's listening to our phone conversations. Given that it would be a major privacy violation, it's just too risky a move when Facebook has other methods of delivering targeted ads.

If you want some added peace of mind, you can disable access to your phone's mic in Facebook's settings. On Android devices, you'll find the option in Settings > Privacy and Safety. And on iOS, head go Settings > Facebook > Settings >