Don’t worry – Facebook is spying on you, just not in the way you might think.
This has probably happened to you or someone you know, where you’re having a conversation with your spouse, maybe about needing to buy new toothpaste or a new pair of pants.
Then the next time you pick up your smartphone or log in to Facebook, there’s an ad for toothpaste or pants. They had to be listening to your conversation through the mic on your smartphone, right?
If only it were that easy for Facebook. According to a Wall Street Journal report, Facebook is not eavesdropping on the conversations in your living room. Former Facebook employees and other tech experts say there are technical and legal reasons Facebook can’t actually eavesdrop like that.
One former Facebook manager said that level of audio snooping data “would strain even the resources of the NSA.”
So, if Facebook isn’t listening to our conversations, how do you get so many ads tailored specifically for you? There are three main ways Facebook gets to know you for advertising:
First, your purchase history – and not just online purchases. Especially if you use a loyalty card when you buy things in a physical store, a third-party data collector vacuums up your purchasing history from that store.
Then, product brands buy that info from the data collector and match that data with Facebook accounts. Next thing you know, you get ads for the kind of toothpaste you regularly buy.
Second, Facebook and advertisers shadow your footsteps. Facebook, and other apps on your smartphone, use WiFi networks, IP addresses and your direct permission to access your phone’s location.
Location tracking has become so sophisticated that companies can target specific geographic areas. If part of the country has a heavy flu outbreak for example, a drug company can target that area with ads. You could even get a targeted ad based on your physical proximity to a store.
What measures are you taking to protect your privacy?