In a move that has set alarm bells ringing among privacy activists everywhere, Facebook has announced in blog post a new ‘feature’ that it plans to incorporate into its mobile app – passive listening.
The idea is that when a Facebook user makes a status update, the app will listen in on its surroundings, recognize a music track or TV show that is being listened to (in a similar way to the popular Shazam app), and update the user’s status accordingly.
‘Here’s how it works: If you’ve turned the feature on, you’ll see an audio icon moving on the screen when you write a status update. If the feature finds a match, you can then choose to add the song, TV show or movie to your post.’
The key point is that this will be done passively, and the app will automatically listen to user’s environment when they update their status.
The feature will be optional to activate (although note that you cannot decline with a ‘No’, but only a ‘Not Now’), and if activated you don’t have to include the information in your status update (but Facebook will still listen in to your surroundings anyway).
Facebook promises not to store any information collected in this way, but its track record of keeping such promises or in keeping features purely optional is not good.