We all know that Google can listen to your conversations, but what about Facebook? The social media giant claims that it doesn’t eavesdrop, but how often have you seen ads for products relating to a recent conversation?
It’s a bit creepy to have suggested products or services pop up in your feed after talking about them. There have been many memes made about the seemingly telepathic nature of Facebook. Targeted advertising is how Facebook makes the bulk of its revenue, so it wouldn’t be a far-fetched idea. Tap or click here to see how your phone really is listening.
While Facebook has denied listening in on conversations, it did confirm in 2016 that it uses the mic if you gave it permission. Even if what it says is true, you can never be too careful. Here are three ways to make sure that Facebook isn’t listening to your conversations.
1. Check your Facebook permissions
Before downloading an app, you can usually see the device functions it needs to operate and its requested permissions. Some won’t be out of the ordinary, but there have been instances where certain permissions weren’t necessary.
There is no reason why a mobile game would need access to your contact list to work or why a flashlight app needs to know your location. You can see the permissions an app requires for mobile devices, and you can revoke access if needed. Tap or click here to check your app permissions.
In the case of Facebook, check whether it has access to your microphone and turn it off if it does. Just a word of caution: not all apps allow you to revoke certain permissions. In those cases, you must either delete the app completely or live with it.
How to check Facebook’s permissions on iOS:
- Open Settings.
- Scroll down to the app section and select Facebook.
- A list of access requests will be displayed here.
- Slide the toggle next to Microphone to the left to disable it.
To see a complete list of iOS apps that have access to your microphone:
- Tap Settings
- Tap Privacy
- Scroll down and tap Microphone
- A list of apps with access to your microphone will appear
- Slide the toggle to the left next to each app you want to disable
Here is how to do it on a Mac:
- Click the Apple menu
- Navigate to and click System Preferences
- Click Security & Privacy, then open the Privacy tab
All the apps that have requested (and been granted) access to the microphone will be listed here. Toggle the sliders of the apps that you want to revoke to the left to disable.
To check an app’s permissions on Android:
- Tap Settings
- Tap Apps & notifications
- Scroll down to Facebook
- Tap Permissions
A list of all the permissions requested by Facebook will be shown here.
Permissions on a desktop computer
For Microsoft’s Windows operating system, things work slightly differently. While it isn’t apps but rather programs being installed, the requests are divided into two sections.
To see which apps or programs have access to your microphone:
- Click on the Start button and select Settings
- Select Privacy
- Scroll down and under App permissions select Microphone
The first option, “Microphone access for this device,” is a system-wide setting. If you turn this off, all apps can’t access your microphone. Scrolling down a bit, you will see a list of Microsoft Store apps that can use the microphone. Toggle the slider to turn it on or off.
The next section displays desktop apps that have microphone permissions. This will include all third-party program installations, like Discord, Skype or Zoom. You can see when last the app access your microphone.
While you can’t turn off the access individually, you can toggle off the microphone under the heading “Allow desktop apps to access your microphone.” Keep in mind, disabling the mic here means it won’t work for programs like Zoom. You can jump back in and enable the mic when needed.
Apple’s efforts to protect your privacy
Included in the release of iOS 14, Apple required app developers to ask for your permission to access certain functions. It also required apps to get your consent before connecting to other devices on your network at home.
This has been done so you have control over which features of your phone an app can use. When iOS 14.5 rolls out, it will mark the deadline for asking permission, and if an app fails to do so, it will be pulled from Apple’s App Store.
If you want to know how to grant or revoke local network access, tap or click here for instructions.
2. Get a microphone blocker
There are several commercial options available for blocking your microphone from being accessed. When you plug in a headset, your device’s microphone is disabled in favor of the external microphone.
Companies like Mic-Lock produce tech solutions that trick your computer into thinking a microphone is plugged in. Obviously, the gadgets don’t have listening capabilities and block any acoustics from being recorded.
Mic-Lock makes microphone blockers for USB and Lightning connections, and for traditional 3.5mm jacks.
3. Go the DIY route
The Lightning connection to block the microphone for iOS devices will set you back around $26, but you can do it for cheaper. Grab a pair of inexpensive headphones and cut the cord near the jack. Now you can plug it into your computer or phone without worrying about live sound input.
Don’t have an old set of headphones? No worries. You can get a cheap pair from Amazon for less than $10.
Even if Facebook claims that it’s not listening in, you can’t trust it. The company has been caught betraying users too many times over the years to take its word for it. That’s why it’s important to take these steps on your own to get back some of your privacy.
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