Facebook wants to listen in on your TV and music

Filed Under: Android, Facebook, Featured, iOS, Privacy

Image of headphones courtesy of ShutterstockSay, you don't mind if Facebook sticks one of your earbuds into its data-mining cranium, do you?

As Facebook said in a message posted Thursday, over the next few weeks, it's introducing an optional music, TV and movies recognition feature in the US for Android and iOS gadgets - or what the praiseworthy Register calls "fondleslabs."

The feature will be off by default. If a user gives it permission to slurp up sound, it will tap into the mic on a mobile device and eavesdrop on whatever's playing in the background.

The feature will then grind through its recognition machinery to identify the song, movie or TV show you're listening to.

Facebook didn't say anything about listening in on background noise, including private conversations.

But its Help Center says that recognition may fail if the room's too loud or a commercial's on, so the Zuckerbergians are apparently only matching input against the millions of recorded songs and TV shows currently broadcasting on over 150 channels that it's got in its data banks, as opposed to getting all NSA-ish about things.

Should you choose to accept this data-mining mission, you'll see an audio icon moving on the screen when you write a status update.

If Facebook identifies a match, you can then choose to add the song, TV show or movie to your post.

If you're listening to a song, it will give you the option of sharing a 30-second preview with your friends in a status update, all without typing.

For TV shows, your News Feed will highlight the season and episode you're watching, so you can talk to your friends about Game of Thrones without giving away any spoilers.

Facebook says the posts will be like any others: users can choose who can see them.

Plus, you can turn the feature off at any time by clicking the audio icon in the top right of the screen.

No sound is stored, and you'll always get to choose whether you post to your friends.

It's not the first for technology like this. There are plenty of song recognition applications out there, for one.

But do we really want to trust Facebook, keeper of one of the deepest mines of personal data in cyberland, with yet another aspect of our lives to squeeze for ad dollars?

Here's Naked Security's list of stories about Facebook and its history of privacy.

Happily, the decision is yours!

Image of headphones courtesy of Shutterstock.

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12 Responses to Facebook wants to listen in on your TV and music

  1. Anonymous · 155 days ago

    Place your bets on how long it will take Facebook to assert that having the feature on by default will be a great service to its users, after not enough of them opt in.

  2. Joe · 155 days ago

    "The feature will be off by default."
    For now.

  3. Anonymous · 155 days ago

    onther reasson I wont install Facebook on my phone.

  4. confused_confucious · 154 days ago

    How long until FB posts what porn somebody was watching to their feed publicly and loses someone their job?

    How long until the MPAA sues somebody for watching a movie before it aired, proving they pirated it?

    This has fun times written all over it.

  5. The_Wicked_Truth · 154 days ago

    Once it's released in the Facebook app for iOS, I'm uninstalling it and going back to using Facebook in a web browser only with no microphones or web cams installed. When are we, as consumers, going to draw a hard line with our privacy?

    Facebook has not clarified whether or not the user has to initiate the "listening" feature. I know with other apps, the user has to press and hold a button for so long. I'm under the impression it's on all the time while the app is open. Looks like I'll stick tape over my microphone and both cameras when not in use. The tablet and smartphone developers needs to give us the ability to turn those devices on and off. Not have them on all the time.

    Also, can't wait for the statuses change to [Facebook Name] is watching {Insert Porn Movie Title Here} or [Facebook Name] is listening to {Insert Explicative Word Here}.

    Facebook is trying to be the Microsoft of the social media scene. Can't wait for the mass exodus of users getting angry at Facebook! Just like they did with MySpace not so long ago.

  6. Leefe · 154 days ago

    So, Facebook was the right to wiretap you via your phone?
    With your permission of course

  7. Emmanuel Goldstein Jr · 153 days ago

    "Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket." George Orwell
    I don't think George would mind me substituting "Facebook" for "Advertising" would he?
    The whole point of Facebook is to make it as easy as possible to give away every last vestige or pretense of privacy anyway isn't it?

  8. Stacey White · 151 days ago

    A welcome feature, I don't mind if fb does this for me.

  9. Kronoc · 149 days ago

    um ,why are people freaking out? This will be the exact same thing as shazam o.0 and people arent freaking out about that

    • That's the service that Shazam is *expected* to provide. Facebook is know for adding things like this, this six months later changing people's settings "to enhance their user experience" - the crappy sort order is the primary example I use.

  10. David · 149 days ago

    It's Called "Conditioning The Masses To Accept The Surveillance State"..... ENJOY! :l

  11. As a SysAdmin of medical professionals, I'll probably be told to block Facebook to prevent accidental HIPAA violations. I bet legal firms will do the same.

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.