Last week, Facebook rolled out a new update to users in the USA (soon to be rolled out to Australian users) which allows Facebook to listen to a person’s surroundings via their smartphone microphone when they are posting a new status.
The new feature will use recorded audio to tag statuses with what the user is watching or listening to. For example, if you were listening to The Beatles whilst posting a status, Facebook would give you the option to tag your post with “Listening to The Beatles.” The feature to tag what you’re currently doing isn’t new, but this new update will make it automatic.
Users are concerned this ‘Big Brother move’ by Facebook is far too invasive, especially considering it only saves the few seconds it takes to type out what you are listening to or watching. The benefits for Facebook on the other hand are massive, as it will provide it with a lot more information which it can use to market music and television advertisements to its users.
US Facebook users have reacted to the new update with an online petition against the feature which has already received 600,000 online signatures.
Facebook has responded with a statement declaring that the audio recorded is not stored, nor is the data gathered tied to a specific users account, and is an optional feature.
Facebook has explained the feature with the following:
“Here’s how it works: if you choose to turn the feature on, when you write a status update, the app converts any sound into an audio fingerprint on your phone. This fingerprint is sent to our servers to try and match it against our database of audio and TV fingerprints. By design, we do not store fingerprints from your device for any amount of time. And in any event, the fingerprints can’t be reversed into the original audio because they don’t contain enough information.”
How do you feel about the new feature? Do you think Facebook is going too far or users are overreacting to a feature that is, after all, optional?