Facebook denies it ‘listens’ to conversations when probed on relevancy of ads

Two Facebook executives took to Twitter this week to deny the social network listens to its users conversations in order to target advertising based on what they say after a podcast surfaced a series of complaints about the over-relevancy of Facebook advertising.

PJ Vogt, the presenter of a tech podcast called Reply All, asked Twitter users to call in on Thursday (26 October) if they believed that “Facebook uses your mic to spy on you for ad reasons”. Many users then detailed examples of when they mentioned something they were going to buy to a friend, only to see it targeted at them on Facebook hours later. Some of these users qualified their concerns by stating they never searched for said products online, meaning Facebook could only know to target the ads by using their microphone to listen in. 

However, Rob Goldman, the company’s vice president of product for ads and pages, denied such actions in a response to the original tweet: “I run ads product at Facebook. We don’t – and have never – used your microphone for ads. Just not true.”

I run ads product at Facebook. We don’t – and have never – used your microphone for ads. Just not true.

— Rob Goldman (@robjective) October 26, 2017

Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, who previously served as the company’s VP of ads and business platform before taking on a new role leading consumer hardware in August, also responded to Vogt’s tweet, simply saying “Incorrect”.


— Boz (@boztank) October 26, 2017

Vogt got hundreds of replies to his original tweet.

Facebook released a statement on its website in June 2016 denying it used a device’s microphone for ads or News Feed stories.

“We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information – not what you’re talking out loud about,” it said.

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