Earlier this week a patent from Facebook came to light, a depicting technology that Facebook can use quietly and activate a user’s microphone in order to listen to them as they watch ads.
The patent, filed earlier this month, was originally discovered by Metro. It describes a process by which secret messages embedded in TV ads, inaudible to the human ear, would trigger your smart device to record you while the ad would be playing. After that it will send the audio to Facebook in order for it to hear your reaction to the ad.
Facebook Deputy General Counsel Allen Lo said in a statement to Engadget that the company filed the patent to prevent aggression from other companies, and it would never be included in a Facebook product, ever. Take that as you will.
The idea that Facebook is listening to users is a long-standing theory use to target things they believe they’ve mentioned in passing. Mark Zuckerberg addressed this in his Congressional testimony, calling it a “conspiracy theory…that we listen to what’s going on on your microphone and use that for ads” and dismissing it flatly.
Zuckerberg dismissing this as a “conspiracy theory” seems in appropriate, when now this patent has come to light. Facebook’s insistence this patent is something they’re filing so they can never use it isn’t exactly reassuring, either.
The creepiest thing about this patent is the idea that it can record any audio while the ad is playing. If it is used, it would be a massive invasion of user’s privacy. Just looking at this patent makes me uncomfortable, and the fact that Facebook — not a company historically known for keeping its users’ secrets on lock — would be the company holding it, even more so.
There is not much information about how long Facebook has been using it but if it’s being used it is a massive invasion of a user privacy.