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Facebook denies listening to user conversations via microphones

    • Facebook's Vice President of Ads, Rob Goldman, said it was "just not true" the social network used a device's microphone to listen in on real-life conversations in order to target people with relevant ads
    • In a statement published on its website last year, Facebook denied listening in to users via a microphone device
    Jaap Arriens | NurPhoto | Getty Images

    A senior Facebook executive has denied the social network uses a device's microphone to listen in on real-life conversations in order to target people with relevant ads.

    In response to a tweet on Friday by PJ Vogt, the presenter of a technology podcast called Reply All, Facebook's Vice President of Ads Rob Goldman said it was "just not true" the tech giant used this practice.

    Goldman said: "I run ads product at Facebook. We don't — and have never — used your microphone for ads. Just not true."

    In a statement published on its website last year, Facebook denied listening in to users via a microphone device. The tech giant said: "We only access your microphone if you have given our app permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio."

    PJ Vogt received hundreds of replies to his original tweet Friday, with several people claiming they had seen adverts which appeared to be related to recent conversations.

    "A co-worker got an ad saying, 'So you popped the question!' minutes after he proposed, before he told anyone it had happened," Tori Hoover said in response to PJ Vogt.

    David Hand, a mathematics professor from Imperial College London, told the BBC that while some feel as though such coincidences could not just happen by chance, people are generally more alert to things that are currently occupying them.

    "If you take something that has a tiny chance of occurring and give it enough opportunities to occur, it inevitably will happen," he added.