Facebook “We’re not listening.” Overreach?

Facebook are currently disputing the idea that they listen in on real-world conversations through over-reaching it’s permissions to access the microphone. Yes – users want the apps to access the microphone when actively recording video or using audio – but not when having a private conversation with someone in the ‘real world’ – with the phone off.

The biggest issue I have with this is the denial. They explicitly denied listening via the core Facebook app; and also their messenger app. However, we’re all using a variety of additional apps curated and managed by Facebook.

  • Facebook.
  • Messenger.
  • Whatsapp. (need microphone for audio/video calls)
  • Instagram. (needs microphone for video)

It’s not practicable to manage access or revoke access based on individual use. What’s required here is for iOS/Android to provide better UX around which apps are accessing which features each time they’re accessed. In the same way we have the battery monitor, the OS providers should be providing an audit log of what exactly your phone has been doing.

I’m not sure what privacy campaigners are calling it yet – I need to have a read up and familiarise myself.  I’d call it overreach. We should be protected from such overreach; and the OS creators need to provide better tools by default, rather than requiring rooting and/or technological expertise to understand what a device that you’re paying for and is with you for practically 24 hours a day is doing with your data.

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