Despite half a million complaints, Facebook app now listens in on your surroundings

Facebook has recently updated their mobile app for Android, allowing for the company to record 'passive noise' from a smartphones microphone. Although slightly disconcerting at first, Facebook promises that privacy is of the upmost importance and will be respected. The new feature aims to figure out if you're listening to a particular song or watching a TV Show, which will then appear alongside your Facebook post.

A video from Facebook showing off 'A New, Optional Way to Share and Discover Music, TV and Movies​'

The latest feature could be a nice addition if it functions as initially intended. However speculation has arisen and many argue that the 'passive noise' could be stored in the Facebook servers and sold to advertisers. Facebook has made a rebut claiming it's not possible, due to an encrypted 'Audio Fingerprint' system integrated in the design. It's important to note however that the service is completely optional and can be turned off with a click of a button.

An official release from Facebook provides an explanation of the feature, saying:

When writing a status update – if you choose to turn the feature on – you’ll have the option to use your phone’s microphone to identify what song is playing or what show or movie is on TV. That means if you want to share that you’re listening to your favorite Beyoncé track or watching the season premiere of Game of Thrones, you can do it quickly and easily, without typing.

A recent petition has turned a few heads, attracting over 560,000 users to sign a form against the update. Nevertheless the 'passive noise' feature is now available for Android devices, so it's clear Facebook truly believes the service to be worth its controversy.

The Facebook app for iOS has yet to be updated, but will include the service for sure. Windows Phone should see the feature integrated in the future, however Microsoft made the application so we cannot vouch for the update. We'll keep you posted if we hear any more news regarding the new service so keep your eyes peeled.

Source: Facebook via Geek | Android Smartphone image via Shutterstock

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Can someone please tell me what version of the App they incorporated this in for Android? I just updated to version 10.0.0.28.27 today, June 6, and have done everything I know to do to make it work to no avail. I am willing to try out this feature, I want to do a few tests. I have a Droid Maxx with KitKat 4.4 and the latest OTA bugfix from Verizon. Thanks in advance.

Just because it says you can disable it, it still means that the application has access to using your sensor.
So disabled or not, they could still be recording what you are doing, and you gave them permission when you installed it off your applicable marketplace.

I wish there was a decent mobile application alternative. mbasic is great, but lacks a lot of standard features, and the mobile touch site is just a trainwreck...

Exactly what I read into that also, so the app lets you disable letting you know its recording. Awesome, now every single person using the facebook app pretty much has a bug walking around recording 24/7 so facebook can get business trade secrets, government secrets, or listen to people in other compromising positions.

I just got the new android os on my nexus 5 and noticed something very similar to the "hiding of app activities and permissions" that facebook is trying to pull.

So long story short, the nexus 5 has an HP printing app pre-loaded on the OS that can't be uninstalled without rooting. I don't have an HP printer, so no reason for me to update it (or even have the app really). Recently, prior to the most recent android OS, I hit the update all button for my apps in the play store to be greeted with a prompt saying the new version of the HP app has the ability to turn on NFC, access devices on NFC and share information through NFC. With the history of NFC being used to compromise phones and steal money, I didn't do the update. Now, after the newest android OS was released a couple days ago, when I look at that exact same version of the HP app update (which google has done massive changes to the play store), it only says "Wi-Fi connection information. Allows the app to view information about Wi-Fi networking such as whether Wi-Fi is enabled and names of connected Wi-Fi devices". It doesn't mention anything about NFC, but HP has NOT removed or changed the app at all.

If Google is now hiding application activities, what all is it hiding? This goes right down the same path as turning on the GPS on any of the newer android devices how Google forces the Location Consent dialog box to come up over and over if you don't agree to it and how they state that if you do agree to it, that location data will be collected even if you don't have any apps open at all.

There are too many data hungry businesses any more, and its to the point now that we can't even trust our cell phone producers to respect our privacy. All of this has me borderline ready to go back to an old style phone.

just place your mobile next to the toilet when you take a dump and flush it, just keep doing this....

LOL, which is yet another reason why I don't use their app. I use a 3rd party app that gives me back the most important aspect of the Me Tile that Microsoft screwed over with 8.1: the ability to post to multiple social networks simultaneously. And, of course, FB can't passively do SQUAT through the 3rd party app.

timster said,
"if you choose to turn the feature on"

It's not even on by default, stop getting your panties in a bunch!

Yeah, a bit like that setting where you can set the news feed to show most recent articles instead of top news. Oh wait...

Oh no! Facebook might optionally do something that Google SoundSearch, Shazam, SoundHound, and a ton of TV channel apps have already done and totally take advantage of for marketing purposes BUT IT'S FACEBOOK SO THIS IS AN UNPRECEDENTED ASSAULT ON OUR RIGHTSGEWROFINWVSGGRRRBL

This is why I've always made it habit to store my smartphone in my butt. I've been farting on it for years, and now Facebook can enjoy my ~natural symphony~ along with the NSA.

How does listening to someone post enhance social networking? And how long before someone figures a way to use it to listen to everything.

hagjohn said,
How does listening to someone post enhance social networking? And how long before someone figures a way to use it to listen to everything.

on android? probably already happened

Press the screen as hard as you can until you hear the click.

It might sound more like a "crack", depends on your phone model and OS version.

What is it with supposedly otherwise intelligent people feel that any semblance of privacy exists on social media sites or the Internet in general?

I am going to develop a privacy case for your phone that when you place your phone inside, it will play the "pop-goes-the-weasel" song over and over and over and over all day long just to mess with the Facebook (and NSA) folks.

Perhaps a 2.0 release of the privacy case would include a small screen that would fit over the phone cameras and repeat an animated GIF of something like this to go with the music:
http://www.glitters20.com/wp-c...012/11/Funny-Cartoon-95.gif

I don't get this obsession with people having to inform the world of whatever song they are listening to. Seems like something you used to see on emo LiveJournal entries in 2003.

You don't see the need for it? Then don't do it. You have the right to opt-out of sharing whatever parts of your life you choose. You don't however have the right to tell others what they should and should not share about their own lives.

Lord Method Man said,
I don't get this obsession with people having to inform the world of whatever song they are listening to. Seems like something you used to see on emo LiveJournal entries in 2003.
Agree. We now live in a world were everything must be "shared". Scary.

JHBrown said,
Agree. We now live in a world were everything must be "shared". Scary.

I am currently sitting in a chair #officefurniture
Listening to @thejohncallahamslam
Reading and responding your post

Follow my Twitter for more useful updates.
Click here to share this!

Tbh it doesn't really bother me this feature, I don't do anything remotely interesting that would warrant someone in Facebook to keep my recordings haha.

I mean it's not like shazaam uses your Mic to record anything and use the audio to figure out what I'm doing.....oh wait....

Scabrat said,
Oh great, more posts I dont care about are going to spam my feed... ;)

Did you actually read the article? This won't result in more posts. What it hears will be tagged to posts the user would be posting anyway. It won't be making unsolicited posts on its own.

Edited by Ryster, Jun 5 2014, 6:12pm :

TCLN Ryster said,

Did you actually read the article? This won't result in more posts. What it hears will be tagged to posts the user would be posting anyway. It won't be making unsolicited posts on its own?

This just encourages people to post about what show they are watching or song they are listening to. Something that maybe 3 people in their 350+ friends care about =). My point wasnt to be taken seriously but in tongue and cheek =). Though, it has some truth to it.

Capy said,
Let it capture both cameras too and manage your banking account. Just because why not?

Just imagine giving Cortana access to your bank account! You could get her to buy stuff for you, avoiding the guilt!

DonC said,
Just imagine giving Cortana access to your bank account! You could get her to buy stuff for you, avoiding the guilt!
Another girl in my banking account? Thanks, no way :)

SpeedyTheSnail said,
Just uninstalled FB.

Bit of an over reaction.....You could just press the disable button, or just ignore the feature...

TsarNikky said,
Very wise move. Just how critical is FaceBook to one's existence?

It's of no interest to me, whatsoever.

Chemaz said,

Bit of an over reaction.....You could just press the disable button, or just ignore the feature...

I don't trust the app. In a few months, it will show that the disable button only disables the ability to use it for your feed, not to listen in to you anytime else.

If you can disable, whatever. If not, not using the FB app again.

Edit: You can disable it I guess. Missed that part.

Edited by techbeck, Jun 5 2014, 5:00pm :

92GTA said,
Dude, really? Long as youu can disable the feature I guess...


Its amazing technology but people only see the bad side of things. I mean in reality I'm sure nobody gives a ###### what you do unless you commit a serious crime. But I totally get where ur coming from.

But for my generation and older it sucks. And before we go into half a million complaints that's absolutely nothing in comparison to the users Facebook has.