Facebook’s announcement of its new listening in feature, which recognises what song, TV show or movie is playing in the background while you update your status, has been met by harsh criticism from users who have labelled the app “creepy and dangerous.”
Facebook said last week it will soon introduce “a new, optional way to share and discover music, TV and movies.” Users can allow Facebook to access their microphone while they’re writing a status update. The content playing in the background will be identified and automatically included in the status.
“That means if you want to share that you’re listening to your favourite Beyoncé track or watching the season premiere of Game of Thrones, you can do it quickly and easily, without typing,” Facebook said at the time.
But an online petition against the planned featured has already received more than 500,000 signatures. The petition appeals to Facebook to scrap the app, flagging it as a “big brother move” and a “massive” privacy threat.
“Facebook says the feature will be used for harmless things, like identifying the song or TV show playing in the background, but by using the phone’s microphone every time you write a status update, it has the ability to listen to everything,” reads the petition.
Facebook has been forced to respond to the privacy concerns, insisting it has no interest in recording people’s conversations. In an updated blog post this week, Facebook clarified that the feature was optional and it wasn’t storing any user data.
“No matter how interesting your conversation, this feature does not store sound or recordings. Facebook isn’t listening to or storing your conversations,” the statement reads. The tech giant says the feature records only a 15-second clip, that it converts to an “audio fingerprint” and sends to its database where it tries to match it to stored fingerprints of movies and TV shows.
The clarification may do little to quell people’s apprehensiveness, as the petition itself raises more concern about people’s confidence in Facebook than about the actual technology, which is similar to the widely-used song-identification app Shazam.
“Facebook says it’ll be responsible with this feature, but we know we can’t trust it,” reads the petition. “After all, just a few months ago Facebook came under fire for receiving millions of dollars for working with the National Security Agency’s PRISM, a wide-scale and highly controversial public electronic data surveillance program — something its CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially denied.”
The feature will be made available in the US in the coming weeks and is sure to generate lucrative advertising deals from targeted marketing as well as help Facebook transform into the leading forum for discussing TV, film and music.
Watch: Facebook’s new, optional way to share and discover music