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Talk to me! How Facebook plans to make money from your voice


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Last year Facebook bought Oculus Rift in an attempt to develop innovative ways of interfacing with its users, based around concepts of virtual and augmented reality.

Now Facebook has bought out an 18 month old internet start-up company called Wit.ai in order to keep up with technology power houses such as Apple and Google who already have a core of vocal recognition applications in their hands.

Wit.ai has developed a plug-in code that allows software developers to easily build in speech-recognition to their web sites, and although Wit.ai says its software will remain open source, having them on the inside will enable Facebook to keep up with the type of advances their competitors have access to.

At the International Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas the voice recognition buzz could clearly be heard in the air. Excitement is all around because we are quickly approaching the time when typing and swiping (yes I know we waited a long time to get touch screens) will go away and instead talking our way through our use of technology, will become the norm.

It is easy to understand how augmented reality such as Google Glass and virtual realities such as Oculus Rift go hand in hand with the ability to use voice control on our computers. Immersion is what is on Facebook’s mind. So far Facebook has been a place for users to share their lives, ideally their real experiences out in the real world, but what if Facebook becomes a place to live your life rather than share it? What if Facebook could immerse you more and keep you online? All of the time? This is their aim.

Facebook is acutely aware of their ability to monitor users and build up profiles about them. Last year we covered Facebook’s partnership with Nielsen Media Research, and their decision to use Facebook to track people’s viewing habits. Facebook is aware that targeted advertising is a key way to make revenue for its shareholders, and the more it keeps you on Facebook the more revenue it can make from advertising.

Facebook of course already uses facial recognition software that uses an algorithm to create an individual user ID, a technology that can now recognize faces even from the side.  With passive listening, facial recognition, and vocal recognition now all working simultaneously, the implications for privacy breaches are huge, and the better the technology gets (and how it all works together) is going to be a large part of how Facebook is going to co-opt users into not noticing they are being spied on. If the benefits are good enough, Facebook recognizes that users will choose to stay with them rather than worry about where their information is going, (or how it is sold on for profit,) and the fact is that our information, is worth money, and is being sold on.

It is also clear that passive listening technology and vocal recognition software combine in a troublesome way, for instance, you don’t have to be a member of Facebook to be in a room with someone who is, and if their mobile app is listening in on what is going on in the room, then it would not take long for them to use vocal recognition to make a unique vocal id of a non-Facebook user. In this way Facebook starts to gather information not only about its users, but about their friends and families too.

The future may be exciting and the buzz in the air, but here at BestVPN we want to keep you informed about possible problem-issues that future technologies might raise, in terms of privacy and online safety, so that you can stay informed and make good decisions. So if you find yourself talking to your laptop or smartphone anytime soon, be sure to remember to look over your shoulder and take a peek at who might be listening in.


Ray Walsh I am a freelance journalist and blogger from England. I am highly interested in politics and in particular the subject of IR and I am an advocate for freedom of speech, equality and personal privacy. On a more personal level I like to stay active, love snowboarding, swimming and cycling, enjoy seafood and love to listen to trap music.

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