Last week, there were theories that surfaced claiming that Facebook could be eavesdropping on the private conversations of users through the microphones of mobile devices.
It was said that Facebook would listen in on users, and then based on what was said in conversations, would serve better targeted advertisements through the social network.
Facebook has since issued a statement on the controversy spurred by the claims of University of South Florida mass communication professor Kelli Burns. The company has denied the claims and stated that the advertisements shown on the social network are only based on the interests of users and other information on their profile.
Facebook added that its app only accesses the microphones of devices if it was given permission by the user, and if a feature requiring audio is being used. One such feature is an option introduced a couple of years ago that allows users to tag a TV show or song that is playing in the background as part of a status update.
The theories have led to a new concern for Facebook users, as the practice could be considered a gross violation of user privacy. Users told anecdotes on why they think that Facebook is indeed listening to their conversations, with advertisements for certain products and services popping up in the News Feed despite them not having posted or liked anything related to the topics.
However, Burns herself feels that her claims were "blown out of proportion." She said that while the reach of her statement shows the importance of privacy among users, she never said that she thinks Facebook is actually actively listening in on conversations.
Nevertheless, for users who would rather be on the safe side of maintaining their privacy, there is a way to turn off the microphone to prevent Facebook or any other app from unknowingly accessing it. For iOS devices, users can head to Settings, access Privacy and switch the slider for Microphone. For Android devices, users can access Settings, select Privacy and then edit the permissions given to the Facebook app.