Worried Facebook is listening to you? Here's how to stop it: Talking Tech podcast

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Hey there, listeners. It’s Brett Molina. Welcome back to Talking Tech. My co-host Mike Snider is off today. If you’ll recall a couple years ago, there was a lot of buzz around Facebook and this notion that, is Facebook, the app, listening to you through your device? And of course, as you recall, Facebook stepped forward, they said it doesn’t eavesdrop. It’s only using the mic when you permit it and it’s only listening for certain words. It works similarly to what we’ve seen with our smart speakers, like the Echo or any Google speakers that you use where it will only listen to you if you say a certain keyword. I’m not going to say them if you have speakers at home because I don’t want to trigger this crazy smart home experience right now, but let’s say you have Facebook, and you’re just really worried about, is Facebook listening?

Even though, again, Facebook has said that it doesn’t, but let’s say on the off chance you’re thinking to yourself, “You know what, I’m not too sure. I’m still a little worried about it.” My colleague Kim Komando writes about this in a story you can read on tech.usatoday.com. It’s titled Still Using Facebook? Three Ways to Make Sure It’s Not Listening. So, let’s break it down.

First thing you want to do is update your permissions. Kim breaks down the different devices you have and how to get to those permissions, so you have a better sense of guarding against that. We’ll focus on the iPhone as an example. You can go to your settings and you’ll scroll down toward the bottom and you’ll see the list of apps that are on your phone. Go to Facebook. When you hit Facebook, you’ll see the list of permissions, so basically all the different things that you’ve allowed Facebook to access, whether it’s your camera, your microphone, your photos, your location, whatever it may be. You go to microphone, slide the toggle to disable it. You’ll know it’s disabled because usually when it’s on, you’ll see that that toggle is green. When it’s off, it’s not green. So, when it’s not green, then you know it’s off.

The second thing you can consider is getting a microphone blocker and the way these work is you plug them into a headphone jack, or you plug them into a lightning connection or a USB, and it tricks your computer or tricks your phone into thinking that there is a microphone plugged in. And so, what that does is allows you to basically block anything from listening. Mic-Lock is an example that Kim brings up that you can try out, and again, you can plug it right into your phone. It even works with lightning connections as well. So, if you have an iPhone, you plug it right into that and it’ll make the phone think that you have a microphone plugged in when you actually don’t. The third thing you can consider is a do-it-yourself mic blocker. So, what you can do, according to Kim, is get a cheap pair of head phones and cut the cord near the jack, and then take that Jack and plug it in. When you do that, the computer thinks that you have headphones plugged in and therefore that also will block audio as well.

So, a couple things to consider if you… Again, I don’t want to make anyone nervous here, and Facebook again has mentioned that their apps aren’t listening to you, but if you’re feeling like they might be, or you don’t trust it, you’re not sure, consider some of these tips. You can read more about this on tech.usatoday.com.

Listeners, let’s hear from you. Do you have any comments, questions, or show ideas, any tech problems you want us to try to address? You can find me on Twitter at brettmolina23. Please don’t forget to subscribe and rate us or leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, anywhere you get your podcasts. You’ve been listening to Talking Tech. We’ll be back tomorrow with another quick hit from the world of tech.

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