Given the fact that a large amount of people–users and non-users alike–have a severe distrust of Facebook and their intentions, it's not that surprising that hundreds of thousands of people have already signed a petition asking that the largest social network in the world please kindly refrain from listening to users' conversations.
Ok, that might be a little misleading.
What people want is for Facebook to cancel their plans to release a new app feature that passively listens to users' background activity in order to identify songs, TV shows, movies, and more to help with easier status sharing. Or, you know, possibly eavesdrop on your most intimate conversations, store that data, and sell it to the highest bidder.
What we have here is a classic case of I don't believe a goddamned word you say, as Facebook is pretty clear about what the new features does, and maybe more importantly, what it doesn't do.
First, let's look at what Facebook says it does:
When writing a status update – if you choose to turn the feature on – you’ll have the option to use your phone’s microphone to identify what song is playing or what show or movie is on TV.
That means if you want to share that you’re listening to your favorite Beyoncé track or watching the season premiere of Game of Thrones, you can do it quickly and easily, without typing.
As for what it doesn't do, Facebook says that not only is no sound stored, but it can't even understand background noise like conversations–only movies, music, and TV shows. It's kind of like Shazam, but with more sharing.
It seems the creators of a fast-moving petition on the site Sum Of Us take issue with that last part.
"Facebook says the feature will be used for harmless things, like identifying the song or TV show playing in the background, but it actually has the ability to listen to everything -- including your private conservations -- and store it indefinitely," says the petition. "Not only is this move just downright creepy, it’s also a massive threat to our privacy. This isn’t the first time Facebook has been criticized for breaching our right to privacy, and it’s hoping this feature will fly under the radar. No such luck for Facebook. If we act now, we can stop Facebook in its tracks before it has a chance to release the feature."
The petition continues...
"Facebook says it'll be responsible with this feature, but we know we can't trust it. After all, just a few months ago Facebook came under fire for receiving millions of dollars for working with the National Security Agency’s PRISM, a wide-scale and highly controversial public electronic data surveillance program -- something its CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially denied..."
Still denies, actually.
The petition currently has about 235,000 signatures out of a necessary 250,000. At the rate it's moving, it should hit its threshold by the end of the day, thanks to social media and a nice, warm reddit hug.
The feature is set to land on both iOS and Android in the next few weeks.
Image via YouTube