Is Facebook Spying on You? Probably. Maybe?

Recently, Reply All, a podcast from Gimlet Media about the Internet, published a podcast centered around Facebook and its notoriously shady data collection practices, titled “Is Facebook Spying on You?” Users noticing strange coincidences regarding Facebook’s targeted ads are left wondering whether Facebook has been listening to their conversations through their smartphone’s microphone without their knowledge.

It’s common knowledge that Facebook is a data sponge, and it’ll soak up every drop of data from its users that it can. Facebook apparently buys all sorts of data about you from companies like Equifax, Experian, and more. The data allegedly includes details about their users salaries and the square footage of their homes. All of this to better target their users with advertising.

Here’s the scary part: There have been reports from many Facebook users who claim that Facebook served them targeted ads that reference verbal discussions they’ve recently had within earshot of their smartphones. These users claim to never have searched about these products, posted about these products, visited the products websites, etc. but 30 minutes after mentioning it out loud, an ad for that product pops up on Facebook. While none of this has been proven, and Facebook has gone out of their way to deny the allegations, it’s hard to ignore the strange coincidences.

Did you know that Facebook will actually show you the categories they have fit you in to help narrow down the ads they serve you? To check it out for yourself, open up Facebook on your phone, click one the menu button, then hit “Settings,” then, “Account settings,” then, “Ads,” then, “Your information,” then, “Review and manage your categories.” This shows you what categories Facebook has fit you into based on your profile information, posts, etc. Check mine out, below!

If you’re interested in hearing more about Facebook’s data-collection practices, give Reply All Episode #109 “Is Facebook Spying On You” a listen. And if you’re concerned about Facebook’s data collection practices, check out Reply All’s guide to How to Avoid Being Tracked by Facebook.


About the Author

Perry Brauner
I'm an architect by trade, but the overarching theme of my life has always been trying to keep up with the newest, coolest technology. Ever since I picked up an NES controller, I've been hooked on the latest and greatest gadgets, gizmos, and toys. Whether it's gaming, mobile phones, and accessories, or PCs and Apple products, I'm interested. I use many Apple products in my daily life, such as the iPhone, iPad, and my MacBook Pro. I've also built a few PCs in my day, so I'd like to say that I'm a pretty well-rounded techie.