Facebook patents system to monitor your TV habits with your phone's mic
Privacy experts are concerned about this intrusion in people's lives, listening to private conversations without their consent
June 29, 2018 / 05:32 PM IST
Facebook has patented a system that can activate your phone's microphone, using inaudible signals broadcast via a television, to monitor your television viewing habits.
According to its creator, the patent is a way for broadcasters to know exactly who is watching their TV shows or ads and the viewing duration.
The patent application describes it as a system where an audio fingerprint embedded in TV shows or ads would trigger the phone to switch on its microphone.
A report by The Guardian says that the same system can be used for better targeting of advertisements by building a viewing profile of every individual in the house.
Once triggered, the microphone will start recording “ambient audio of the content item” which can be matched with Facebook's database to determine what an individual watches, likes and generally prefers.
However, the individual is unaware of all this and is not choosing to activate the system. This way, the company will be able to know which adult or child within a household was watching a particular broadcast.
Privacy experts have shown major concern about this unannounced entry in people's private lives - listening to private conversations without their consent.
Senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation William Budington said, "It’s extremely disconcerting for privacy to have an inaudible beacon as it means they want to make it not obvious to the user that the device is listening."
In response, head of intellectual property at Facebook Allen Lo said, "It is common practice to file patents to prevent aggression from other companies. Because of this, patents tend to focus on future-looking technology that is often speculative in nature and could be commercialised by other companies. The technology in this patent has not been included in any of our products, and never will be."