Facebook gets accused of listening to users’ conversations, Google tracks lost smartphones, Microsoft’s spam filters fail to work, Periscope enlists juries to take down trolls, and making Windows error messages sound sweet.
Facebook Might Be Listening to You
Facebook has been accused of listening into people’s conversations, using the results to serve contextual advertising to users. The accusation comes from Kelli Burns, Professor of Mass Communications at the University of South Florida. Facebook has denied the accusations.
The Facebook app can indeed access your smartphone microphone, listening to what’s going on around you in order to help you write a status update. However, this should only kick in when you start to write an update, and not be listening in all the time. Which is what Burns claims is now happening.
NBC recently showed Burns demonstrating how Facebook listens in. She said, “I’m really interested in going on an African safari. I think it’d be wonderful to ride in one of those jeeps.” Soon afterwards, her feed and ads soon changed to reflect those subject matters. However, Burns has since admitted she may have also searched for safaris and jeeps online.
Facebook has denied all wrongdoing, telling the Independent:
“Facebook does not use microphone audio to inform advertising or News Feed stories in any way. Businesses are able to serve relevant ads based on people’s interests and other demographic information, but not through audio collection.”
However, this is far from the first time such accusations have been made, and there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence suggesting Facebook may hear more than just background noise. To make sure the social network isn’t listening in to your conversations, you may want to manually disable Facebook’s permission to access your smartphone microphone. Which is actually simple enough.
On Android, go to Settings > Privacy > Permissions > Facebook (and revoke microphone access). On iOS, go to Settings > Privacy > Microphone (and switching the slider across).
Google Helps You Find Your Smartphone
— Google (@Google) June 1, 2016
Google can now help you find your phone after you lose it, even if it’s an iPhone. Google’s My Account service, which is celebrating its one-year anniversary, also lets you call your phone, lock it remotely, secure your account, or display a callback number on the screen, all from the comfort of your own home.
Android users could already access the Android Device Manager to locate and manage their lost device, but My Account now includes a Find My Phone feature which covers everyone with a Google account, regardless of device. Find My Phone is available right now, and Google will soon add the ability to trigger it simply by Googling, “I lost my phone”.
Microsoft Gets Hit by a Spam Tsunami
Thought I signed up for something dodgy, but Microsoft Outlook's spam filter is just down at the moment. #HotmailForLife
— Matt Roszak ? (@KupoGames) June 1, 2016
If you have a Microsoft email address then you may have noticed an uptick in spam over the past few days. This isn’t because you stupidly told someone your email address (although you may well have), but because Microsoft’s spam filters stopped functioning properly.
Microsoft claims its filters have now been fixed, and are working as expected. So, all you need to do is log in and clear the backlog of bogus loan offers and performance-enhancing drug ads for everything to go back to normal. But not before reminding yourself how lucky we are to have such a thing as spam filters in the first place.
Periscope Juries Tackle Trolls
Introducing comment moderation – learn about how we're empowering the community to improve comments on Periscope. https://t.co/upbdjmc54L
— Periscope (@PeriscopeCo) May 31, 2016
Periscope is hoping to combat trolls posting abusive comments by making them face a jury of their peers. This is thanks to a new update to the free app, which allows anyone to report an inappropriate comment. So far, so normal. But unlike most other services, Periscope won’t be sitting in judgement.
Instead, a jury will be bandied together from everyone watching the livestream, and asked to judge whether they agree the comment is disagreeable. If the majority agree it, the comments responsible will be blocked from commenting for one minute. If they repeat their bad behavior they risk being muted for good.
The Windows Error Message Song
And finally, here’s a song comprised entirely of Windows error message sounds. Why? Why not. All we really know is that this was made by a YouTuber called syou2at, and that it’s a cover of a song called XI – Freedom Dive. Oh, and it’s sure to give geeks an eargasm. [H/T Reddit]
Your Views on Today’s Tech News
Do you believe Facebook is listening in to your conversations? Have you ever located a lost smartphone? Did you suffer from the spam tsunami? Have you witnessed trolls using Periscope? What do you think of the Windows error message song?
Let us know your thoughts on the Tech News of the day by posting to the comments section below. Because a healthy discussion is always welcome.
Tech News Digest is a daily column paring the technology news of the day down into bite-sized chunks that are easy to read and perfect for sharing.
Image Credit: Poster Boy via Flickr