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  1. #1

    Facebook spied on me through my smartphone mic and served me and ad

    Yesterday, my sister and I were having a conversation and both of our phones had their screens off and were in the room. My sister asked me about potentially leasing a car, and I mentioned maybe leasing a Honda Civic. I have not researched or even thought about Honda Civics in over ten years. I have had zero internet searches for anything related to cars in years. 5 minutes later, I open the Facebook app and I see an ad for leasing a Honda Civic. The ONLY way Facebook could have served that ad was by listening to our conversation while our phones had their screens turned off. This is outrageous. My mind is blown. I Googled around for similar stories and there are lots of anecdotes about this exact thing happening, but it has not broken through to be covered by any large media organization. This is a HUGE story and it seems like The Verge should try to replicate this behavior in a controlled test.

  2. #2
    Second, you should keep in mind correlation does not equal causation. Things like this could easily be a coincidence. Not sure if there’s a way to diagnose this though, maybe tell Android Authority and they can try an APK teardown or something (I assume this is Android because Apple won’t let anything run with the screen off except push notifications as far as I know).

  3. #3
    I deleted the Facebook app and deleted my Facebook account right after this happened so i can’t check the settings, but I really doubt I would have enabled microphone access since I barely used Facebook. About the coincidence factor, I think it’s highly unlikely. I hadn’t seen a car ad on Facebook even once in the years I’d used it and have zero car related searches in my recent history, yet 5 minutes after I mentioned the work Honda Civic Lease it shows that exact ad? That seems incredibly unlikely for it to be a coincidence. I also didn’t mention it in my original post because I wanted to keep the content focused, but this is actually the second time I’ve seen this happen. The first time it happened to my wife. We had a conversation randomly about a topic that we never think about or discuss or had ever searched online for and minutes later she had an ad about it in her Facebook feed.

  4. #4
    When I told FB I wanted to delete it entirely (and not just deactivate it), I was told "sure, no problem," and that I had to send them an email requesting to have it deleted, so I did.

  5. #5
    Then I received an email from them saying that they received my deletion request and that had to avoid logging in or "liking" anything on FB for two weeks, otherwise it would reinstate my account and I’d have to restart the process again.

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