Is The Facebook Messenger App Recording Your Conversations And Ignoring Privacy Settings?

The Facebook Messenger app is one of those which hasn’t inspired much confidence these days, with the multitude of extra options it gives users occasionally not working right. For many, the mobile communication device puts a damper on ordinary conversations by crashing or freezing up, and in some cases just glitching so much it’s unusable.

There have been several additions to the usual text-based messages. Some work well, and some don’t. If you want to reply with a static or animated image of a cartoon character, you can use a “sticker.” If a GIF is more your kind of thing, you can search the database for one which fits your message.

Facebook even recently added an option to send money over their Messenger app. Just type in the dollar amount with the appropriate symbol and hit the icon which pops up next to the sent message, if you trust the social media giant with your money.

Many don’t trust Facebook much at all, only reluctantly putting a dollar or so into a browser game such as those hosted by Zynga to speed up the process on a virtual crop, or add some “bling” to their virtual house or pet. One of the biggest issues with Facebook is its tendency to “conveniently forget” your settings and switch your News Feed back to “Top Stories,” no matter how often you tell it you want “Most Recent.”

In previous years, and possibly to this day, Facebook has had a tendency to change privacy settings without your knowledge. You occasionally have to go in and correct them yourself in case the site “opted you in” to giving out your personal information. Officially, this is only used to determine what kind of ads the site gives you in between what you really want to see.

One setting they added was the option to use your microphone and listen for background media such as movies, TV, and music. Part of that option may have included a secret Facebook Messenger app setting which listens to your conversations through your smartphone mic.

Kelli Burns, a Professor at the University of South Florida, tested the theory and had a live conversation while the Facebook Messenger app was running. She then saw ads related to those conversations, she claims.

Facebook has denied this, stating that it’s a setting you have to opt in for, but with their history of sneaky privacy settings, it’s unclear just what they mean.

“[The] Facebook [Messenger app] does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed. Some recent articles have suggested that we must be listening to people’s conversations in order to show them relevant ads. This is not true. We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information – not what you’re talking out loud about.”

“We only access your microphone if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio. This might include recording a video or using an optional feature we introduced two years ago to include music or other audio in your status updates.”

So does this also include most smartphones’ ability to use your spoken words to send messages when you can’t type, say while you’re driving? And while using the mic, if the neighbor happens to be rude enough to blast some rap, heavy metal, or Hispanic music, does Facebook think you’re listening willingly and adjust your ads accordingly?

It may simply be that Kelli Burns may have been talking about something which was already listed in her interests or status updates.

What do you think? Is the Facebook Messenger app bypassing your privacy settings again to determine your ads?


[Feature Image via Jakraphong Photography/]