A lot of folks believe Facebook is listening to us through the microphones on our iPhones (and Android devices). It’s not true, but the anecdotal evidence suggesting otherwise can be convincing. Which set Wall Street Journal reporter Joanna Stern on a mission to find out if this was true.
Spoiler: it’s not. Apple would never allow that, and neither would Google, if for very different reasons. But more importantly, even if Apple was cool, bro, with such a thing, it would take more computing power and know-how than the NSA to listen in on us all the time and make sense of what was being said. That’s what Ms. Stern confirmed when talking to a variety of sources, and she ended up with this basic truth:
Facebook Isn’t Listening But It’s Surely Watching
Preach on, Sister Stern!
The New Blue Man Group?
But she didn’t stop there, she dug in to find out how Facebook watches us so closely that it feels like they’re listening in. Firstly, I recommend her full article. Secondly, watch this great video she made for the piece:
That’s good stuff.
Thirdly, while she goes into the steps you can take to limit Facebook’s privacy and tracking invasions, we’ve been showing you how to do that for years. Fourthly, she shows in clear detail how Facebook works with its own web trackers, Instagram, and other services, as well as third party advertising trackers. At the same time, those same third party services in turn work with Facebook.
The result of all that working together, along with massive data mining, psychological expertise, behavioral science, and more, all combine to allow Facebook to know us as if they’re listening in on our lives. One of her examples was how data from loyalty cards lets third parties match us to our Facebook profiles and vice versa.
And that’s just the beginning. The bottom line is that when it comes to Facebook, we are the product.
Also, Jeff Gamet, John Martellaro, and I discussed this topic on Friday’s Daily Observations.