Wouldn’t you say there’s an arrogance to a company that believes it can record conversations you have had in proximity to its products without impunity? I surely think so. This week some disturbing news came to light and further the ever-so-eroding privacy that tech consumers are experiencing with a disturbing passivity.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Facebook may be listening to its US users through its mobile apps to serve us with targeted ads. The disclosure came from Kelli Burns, a communications professor at the University of South Florida, who partnered with NBC network to research whether the Facebook mobile application is listening to users based in the U.S. with the intent of delivering targeted advertising based on conversations. The professor said, “I don’t think that people realise how much Facebook is tracking every move we’re making online,” she told NBC. “Anything that you’re doing on your phone, Facebook is watching.” Or, in this case, it seems, recording. For its part, Facebook adamantly denies such accusations, “No, we don’t record your conversations,” the firm states on a help page. “If you choose to turn on this feature, we’ll only use your microphone to identify the things you’re listening to or watching based on the music and TV matches we’re able to determine. If this feature is turned on, it’s only active when you’re writing a status update.” Still, the suspicions run deep, and this latest investigation does not support the Facebook claim of innocence. After all in 2014, Aryeh Selekman, feature’s product manager said to technology website TechCrunch that “serving advertising via audio listening was definitely something we’ve thought about and will potentially do in the future.” And Professor Burns did test the theory by talking senselessly on the topic of going on a safari while the mobile app was active and a few moments later, she was served up with ads about jeeps and safari excursions.
Now there’s Google.
Google may have very well recorded everything you have said around its devices for years without your knowledge, and kept files which you can access and delete.
The recording feature is activated when people search the web with their voice, which Google then store under the auspices of improving its language and voice recognition tools and in return serving up improved search results. But if you’re like me, you may not like Google keeping, storing, manipulations recordings of what you may have hoped for a private search. Fortunately, there is an easy way to delete all those files and also to listen to the recording.
Head over to Google Voice History page and keep track of everywhere Google has made a record of your presence on the internet. The portal was launched June 2015, exactly one year ago – meaning that it has spent one-year collecting conversations or things you may have said under the impression that they were private. The best thing about visiting this page and getting past how much information it has everything you have been doing online for a year is that it gives you the option of deleting the files.
Under the Blue Banner, You’re In Control, Google presents you with two options: deleting specific files or my personal favorite, everything. To delete specific files, click the check box to the left and then move back to the top of the page and select “delete”. To get rid of everything, press the “More” button, select “Delete options” and then “Advanced” and click away.
Facebook is too open
Facebook does not seem to offer such options. As Jure Vizjak, a mobile app developer with a financial app said,
“I removed the app from my phone a while back. It has way too many permissions for my comfort level.” Delete. Deactivate.
What do you think of this topic? Are you concerned that your private conversations are being recorded by your social and technology channels?