Facebook won’t rule out listening to your conversations in the future

Is it listening?
Is it listening?
Image: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
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A longstanding rumor has it that Facebook ads are so accurate because the company listens to people’s conversations through the microphones on their phones.

Once again, Facebook has denied this theory in response to a question from Texas senator Ted Cruz. However, it also didn’t unequivocally commit that it wouln’t do so in the future.

The exchange is part of a massive document containing hundreds of questions for Facebook from US lawmakers as follow-ups to CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s April testimony in front of Congress. The company submitted its answers on June 8. Here’s Facebook’s answer to Cruz’s questions:

Image for article titled Facebook won’t rule out listening to your conversations in the future
Image: Senate Commerce Committee

We might be nit-picking, but Facebook’s answer does not include an ironclad promise that the company would not engage in snooping on our real-life conversations in the future. When asked directly by Quartz whether the company would make the commitment, it declined to comment, but noted that iOS and Android systems require permission for other apps to access a phone’s microphone or camera.

As many have explained (paywall), the illusion that Facebook is spying on us is so persistent because the company is very, very good at gathering information about what’s on your mind from other cues, such as the physical locations you’ve been to, the apps you’ve used, or the websites you’ve visited. But definitely, absolutely not from the conversations we’ve had. Probably.