“The future is private.” Sure it is Facebook.
In what should come as no surprise, Facebook is listening in on your audio chats. What is surprising is that it took so long to discover Facebook’s snooping. The company joins Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft in listening and recording your chats.
But that’s not all Facebook is doing. We’ll tell you what else the company is doing with these recordings and give you tips to protect your privacy.
Related: How to protect your privacy on neighborhood sites like Nextdoor
Facebook records audio chats in Messenger
Three months ago Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “The future is private.” Now we’re learning about a new way Facebook has been invading our privacy.
An anonymous source told Bloomberg News that Facebook is listening to and recording audio chats conducted over its Messenger app. It also has third-party contractors transcribing those chats.
The information came from a contractor. The source also told Bloomberg News that employees at the third-party company felt their work for Facebook was unethical.
Komando.com reached out to Facebook for comment, but the company did not respond.
Facebook’s privacy notice does not say that it has third-party contractors transcribing audio chats. The audio reportedly is compared to the transcripts to test the accuracy of Facebook’s artificial intelligence.
A Facebook spokesperson told Bloomberg that the company had stopped transcribing audio earlier this month.
Add Facebook to the eavesdropping list
While Facebook sucks up as much user information as it can, in this instance it’s not alone. Other major companies have been caught listening, recording and transcribing conversations through their smart assistant products.
In April, Amazon admitted that its smart assistant Alexa was recording conversations beyond commands and storing the audio. Amazon then sent the audio to third-party contractors around the world to transcribe the recordings.
Amid a consumer backlash, Amazon introduced a feature that allows users to tell Alexa to delete all of the day’s audio. Older audio files can only be deleted manually.
Then, one-by-one, we learned that Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Skype and Cortana also were listening, recording and transcribing our conversations. Facebook is just the latest company caught red-handed.
Related: FaceApp, the Russian-backed app that ages you, has a serious privacy risk
How to stop Facebook from recording conversations
You do have the power to stop Facebook from listening to your conversations on Messenger.
Here are a few steps you can take:
Don’t let Facebook transcribe your audio chats
All you have to do is tap “no” when Facebook asks if you want to turn a voice recording into text. If you tap “yes,” Facebook will only transcribe the chat thread you’re having with that one person. No other chats will be transcribed.
But remember that the chat you have transcribed puts that information up for grabs. Delete the text thread and do the same for any chats with other people that have been voice-to-text enabled.
Restrict microphone access
Assume that Facebook is always listening. To make sure it’s not, you can restrict access to your smartphone’s microphone through the Facebook app.
For iOS, open your Settings app, scroll down through the Apps section, tap on Facebook and turn off Microphone access by sliding the toggle to the left.
For Android, open your Settings app, tap on Apps, scroll down to Facebook, tap Permissions, scroll down to Microphone and turn the toggle off.
Move to Secret Conversation
Facebook Messenger can be switched to Secret Conversation mode, which creates an end-to-end encrypted chat. You can enable Secret Conversation on your smartphone’s Facebook Messenger app.
For Android, open your Facebook Messenger, click on the Pencil icon on the top far right and choose the person you want to have a Secret Conversation with. After you hit OK, your Chat Thread will appear. Click on the blue “i,” scroll down to Go to Secret Conversation and tap OK.
For iOS, open your Facebook Messenger app, click on the Pencil icon on the top far right, then tap Secret in the upper right corner. Next, select the person you want to have the private conversation with from your contact list and voila, a new secret thread will appear.
Well, now we know for sure that Facebook is listening to our conversations. With all the other companies listening to us, we might be better off just assuming everyone is listening.
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