Recent Facebook patent reveals use of your phone’s mic to monitor TV viewing

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TechViews News   …..

Now that Facebook has been caught red-handed stealing personal user data and reselling it to companies other than advertisers, are we to believe the new marketing campaign that they are now protecting the data they collect about user’s online communications?

For those who believe that, let me tell you about a particular bridge I have for sale …..

Facebook has filed to patent a system that can remotely activate the microphone on someone’s phone using inaudible signals broadcast via a television.

The patent application describes a system where an audio fingerprint embedded in TV shows or ads, inaudible to human ears, would trigger the phone, tablet or long-rumored smart speaker (like the Amazon Alexa or Google Home devices) to turn on the microphone and start recording. The recording could then be matched to a database of content to allow Facebook to identify what the individual was watching, but without the individual choosing to activate the system.

After a few recordings made via your smartphone without the user’s knowledge or permission, an additional profile factor is added to the already legally-questionable information collected about Facebook’s users.

Imagine, anything you watch on TV, regardless of family or adult content, is now recorded and captured for resale to advertisers and use by legal authorities.

Diagrams accompanying the patent application highlight how the technology would know which individual adult or child within a household was watching a particular broadcast.

The patent, first spotted by the New York Times, positions the technology as a way for broadcasters to know exactly who is watching their TV shows or ads and for how long. The same system could then be used to build viewing profiles of individual members of a household for better targeted advertising and personal information collection.

Privacy experts are concerned about the intrusion into people’s homes, particularly as the ambient audio recording would likely catch snippets of people’s private conversations without their knowledge.

“It’s extremely disconcerting for privacy to have an inaudible beacon as it means Facebook wants to make it not obvious to the user that the device is listening,” said William Budington, a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Facebook was quick to downplay the patent filing. While there are ongoing privacy concerns of the Amazon Alexa and Google Home digital assistants, the upcoming Facebook version takes privacy violation to a whole new level.

Facebook has faced a public reckoning earlier this year about its treatment of user data collected from 50 million users without their permission. The reports spiraled into a crisis for Facebook, which sent Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to testify in front of Congress on user privacy.

The social-media company claims to be addressing the issue through online ad inserts on its Facebook platform, but privacy experts claim that Facebook is only a telling people how concerned they are and not actually doing anything to change.

Despite continued claims that Facebook does not collect personal data without the user’s permission, the Congressional hearings revealed otherwise. What’s alarming is that the majority of Facebook’s users are younger people who don’t yet understand the dangers of collecting and storing personal data.

And since a growing number of businesses are using Facebook to push their products and services, the ability to “spy” on companies and their activities is reminiscent of spying during the days of the Cold War, just more technically advanced.

Facebook’s head of advertising, Rob Godman, denies that Facebook is collecting any data at all, despite concrete testimony and researched proof otherwise.

“I run ads for others at Facebook. We don’t – and have never – collected data from user information to resell for revenue generation. It’s just not true,” Goldman tweeted during the Congressional hearings. That statement alone is totally contrary to part of its mission statement that is publicly available.

Be Safe – Backup Your Data Regularly!

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