A CANADIAN tech guru has highlighted a handy experiment that you can perform to check if Facebook is spying on you.
TikTok star Morten Rand Hendriksen told his 11,000 followers that the trick proves once and for all that the social media app isn't secretly listening to its users.
Conspiracy theorists have for years falsely claimed that the Facebook app hijacks smartphone microphones to listen in on conversations.
The company is said to use the information it gathers to better target advertisements. Facebook has repeatedly denied the claims.
According to Morten, who posts on TikTok under the username "@mor10web", there's an easy way to check if the app is snooping on you.
It proves that Facebook targets ads based on your web history – such as online searches and social media activity – rather than what you say out loud.
"You need a friend for this and you need a lot of patience," he said in a recent video in which he described the experiment.
To try it out for yourself, grab a friend or family member and make an agreement to talk about a product or service any time you're together.
You could pick "oat milk", for example, or an online clothing store.
You can only talk about that product or service when you and your accomplice are together and when no one else is listening, Morten, a web designer and developer who has plenty of experience in software, said.
Keep your phones close enough to you that, if Facebook was listening through the microphones, they'd be able to pick up your conversation.
During the test period, you must also avoid interacting with any website or social media posts related to the subject you've chosen.
"That means no liking on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook or TikTok or anywhere else that mentions anything to do with this product," Morten said.
He added: "What you'll discover is, as long as you're just talking about it, the product doesn't show up in ads."
If ads don't show up for several weeks despite the two of you engaging in multiple conversations, you can then try and make a related ad appear.
To do this, have one person perform online searches and interact with social media posts related to the product.
See how long it takes for related ads to show, and then have the other person do the same.
"Your conversations are ignored, but the moment you do some kind of text input, everything shows up immediately," Morten said.
People have debated for years whether companies like Facebook are listening in on their conversations.
But there has never been any solid evidence – beyond hearsay and anecdotes – that the social media giant is recording your chats.
Facebook has repeatedly denied the claims, highlighting that it bases the ads you see on your interests and information from your profile.
A number of independent investigations have found no evidence that the US tech titan secretly listens to its users.
Experts say that, while Facebook hoards plenty of data, it's extremely unlikely that the company secretly records hundreds of millions of people.
The key point is that Facebook doesn't have to.
It knows enough about you from your browsing data and profile information to target you with very specific ads.
In the case of many claims of Facebook "hijacking" phones, the appearance of ads for stuff you recently nattered about is purely circumstantial.
Facebook has repeatedly and strongly denied that it uses microphone recordings to target ads.
In a previous statement, a spokesperson said: "Facebook does not use your phone’s microphone to inform ads or to change what you see in News Feed.
"Some recent articles have suggested that we must be listening to people’s conversations in order to show them relevant ads. This is not true.
"We show ads based on people’s interests and other profile information – not what you’re talking out loud about.
"We only access your microphone if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio.
"This might include recording a video or using an optional feature we introduced two years ago to include music or other audio in your status updates."
In other news, Apple has announced that it will let customers fix their own iPhones for the first time starting next year.
The UK is fighting an epidemic of hack attacks targeting consumers and businesses, according to officials.
NASA has slammed Russia after a missile it fired into one of its own satellites forced the space station to perform an emergency swerve.
And, a 75-year-old Brit has told of his anger after scammers on WhatsApp fooled him into sending them hundreds of pounds.
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