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The Sound of Facebook Listening In

29 May 2014 by Jenn Granger

If – like me – your music collection is a mortifying mix of cheesy ‘90s pop and power ballads, you may want to look away; because Facebook is about to open its ears to what you’re listening to. And given their love of sharing, this could open up a whole new can of privacy issues.


The idea behind the (only slightly creepy) new feature is to make it easier for people to tag what they’re listening to and watching, especially as the ‘second screen‘ trend grows. As it stands, you can tag music and TV in your status, but all that typing can really tire out your fingers, so this will listen up and do it for you. Until now more than 5 billion status updates have included music and TV tags, but Facebook wants to take it to the next level.

The social network explains: “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.” So, if you want to share the song, it’ll add a 30-second clip to the status; if you’re watching TV, it will say which episode and season you’re on. Then your friends can mock you for being behind on Game of Thrones. Or help you avoid spoilers. Either.

The nosy new tech draws on the popular Shazam/SoundHound principle of picking up music around you; and it’s a smart way to capitalise on television advertising by getting people to gather on FaceyB and discuss what they’re putting in their ears. You can choose whether to share the audio though, so the world doesn’t need to know that you Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.

The techy bit involves ‘audio fingerprinting’; which means that the device listens to a few seconds of audio from a song or show, digitises it, gets rid of all the rubbish background noise, and rifles through its database of audio fingerprints to find a match.

The feature’s kicking off in the US in a few weeks’ time, but before you worry that Facebook’s getting all ‘Big Brother’ on us, the feature is optional; even Facebook wouldn’t dare seize control of our mics in the current Snowtopian climate. FB is also keen to say that the sounds are only used to find a music match, and it doesn’t store them; and that it can’t identify background noise or conversation. The BBC has said that it ‘understands’, “that the new feature was not specifically designed to enhance Facebook’s advertising. However, the company could push an advert to a user’s phone based on their tracked listening habits.” So, while we don’t need to go covert with our convos just yet, if you listen closely you might hear some concerns about where this could potentially lead.

Here’s the lowdown on companies that will defend your privacy; and if you have any privacy or security questions about your solution with UKFast give us a call on 0208 045 4945 or contact your account manager.