Facebook Wants to Tap Into Your Cell Phone's Mic. Will You Let Them?

Corey Wainwright
Corey Wainwright



eavesdropToday, Facebook announced a new feature that might make even the oversharers among us squeamish. It's a feature that taps into your cell phone's microphone, and identifies the TV show, movie, or song playing in the background so you can share it on Facebook. (If you've ever used the popular app Shazam to identify a song -- or seen someone waving their phone in the air at a bar -- it's kind of like that.) It's rolling out on iOS and Android in the U.S. over the coming weeks.

Facebook is setting the feature to default to "off," but if you turn the feature on, you'll see the audio icon moving any time you draft a status update. If the feature finds a sound match, it'll give you the option to add the show, movie, or song to your update.


The idea, as Facebook puts it, is to make sharing your entertainment choices quicker and easier by taking out the typing portion of the status update altogether. It probably makes the News Feed more streamlined, too, as certain types of status updates can become identifiable, Facebook-designed formats -- entertainment looks like this, check-ins look like that, yadda yadda yadda.

Facebook stated that there's nothing to be concerned about -- that they don't store any of the sounds (though they do archive the data they glean), the data is anonymized, and you always get to choose whether you post it to your friends. But as you can imagine, the internet's abuzz over the idea of Facebook now trying to tap into our microphones and listen in on our daily lives. Casey Johnston at Ars Technica makes the point that "Facebook ... stresses that the feature is optional. Though it's worth noting that many Facebook features are optional, until such a time as they are not," referring to Facebook removing the ability to opt out of appearing in search results.

What I find most surprising is that anyone was under the impression they still had much online privacy with the monetization possibilities big data offers. Even so, I won't be enabling the feature. But that's because the only thing I watch is Game of Thrones about three days after the new episode airs, which is three days too late for anyone to care anyway.

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