Facebook is in a unique position where it can learn the most private information about it’s users.
They want more information to make more money from advertisements.
And people are complying – filling it with data through posts, private messages and meta data like what content you interact with and when. Even when you’re not using Facebook it can track you through websites which use social “like” buttons and their tracking “pixel”.
It’s clear that Facebook sees everything – but what about hearing?
Is Facebook using our phones to listen to our conversations?
When you install the Facebook app on your phone you give it permission to use your microphone.
This is to enable features which require the microphone – but because the Facebook app runs in the background it’s entirely possible it’s always listening.
When it comes to this level of spying I tend to think it’s just people being paranoid – it would be hard to hide all the network traffic even if it was only transmitting certain keywords.
But then there are the stories of people talking about something to only have it appear as an advertisement the next day.
Recently some academics did a year long experiment to try to bring light to this – but couldn’t find any evidence to support the theory.
My spooky experience
Much like other reports – I’ve experienced talking about something to only have it advertised (for the first time) the next day.
A coworker was telling me about the “barefoot investor” – something I had not been aware of or interacted with before. Investing is not something I look at.
The next day I see it being promoted in the right hand of my Facebook feed.
Leaving me to wonder if there was more to it.
If not spying – what ?
If Facebook isn’t listening in – what are the alternatives?
The most basic explanation would be a simple coincidence.
That unrelated to any conversation, interaction with content on Facebook or online – you just happen to have something advertised that you were talking about recently.
While this is the easiest to comprehend, in an age of big data this seems far fetched.
Unnoticed until familiar
It’s also possible that the ads were there all along but you simply didn’t notice until it was something you were familiar with.
With the thousands of ads we see a day – we soon learn to ignore them.
So this theory suggests that because you had recently thought about the item or topic – when you saw the advertisement you actually noticed it.
One of Facebook’s biggest strengths is the connections between people.
They can work out a lot about who you are and your interests by who your friends are and their interests.
So maybe you didn’t search for the item or topic – but perhaps one of your friends did?
It’s possible that Facebook is choosing to promote something to you because they know one or more of your friends is interested in it.
Facebook is a marketing machine – this is what makes it valuable to shareholders – and therefore where they would be putting a lot of their energy into.
With all the information they gather about who you are, what you’re interested in, who you talk to, which websites you visit – they build their own profile of you as a person to market to.
With all the profiles they build they can make correlations between users and interests.
It’s possible that they know people with similar profiles are interested in the item or topic – and therefore it’s probably you are too.
What do you think – do you have an experience or theory?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.