While a large number of people believe that Facebook secretly uses the microphone on their devices to better target ads on its platform, CEO Mark Zuckerberg refuted this belief. The executive in a Senate hearing on Tuesday explicitly said no to a question on whether Facebook uses audio from mobile devices specifically for ads. The hearing was notably about the recent Cambridge Analytica revelations and the privacy concerns around personal data abused by the social networking giant.
"Yes or no, does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about users?" asked Senator Gary Peters. Zuckerberg firmly responded to the query and said, "You're talking about this conspiracy theory that gets passed around, that we listen to what's going on on your microphone and we use that for ads. We don't do that."
As noted by The Verge, Zuckerberg additionally elaborated the use case of the microphone on mobile devices and revealed that Facebook accesses the audio from the microphone only when users record videos on their devices for sharing them on the social network. "To be clear, we do allow people to take videos on their devices and share those, and videos have audio, so we do while you're taking a video, record that and use that to make the service better by making sure your videos have audio, but I think that is pretty clear," he stated.
All the way back in 2016, Facebook officially released a statement confirming that it doesn't use the microphone on the mobile devices of its users to customise ads or News Feed. That statement was the result of a claim made by a South Florida University Professor Kelli Burns. The Professor had alleged that the company was listening to her phone calls to align ads on the Facebook app with her conversations. "Facebook does not use your phone's microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed," the company had said in a blog post, adding, "We show ads based on people's interests and other profile information - not what you're talking out loud about."