Facebook is LISTENING?!

listening-glass-630Facebook is to release a new feature on its mobile app that ‘listens’ to what music you’re streaming or what you’re watching.

Oh god, I can hear the paranoid already: “It’s a trap! The government is watching!”

Apparently, it is an opt-in service, can be turned off at any time, no audio is stored, and the device cannot pick up on any background noise or conversation. Be that as it may, I’m not really comfortable with it.

It’s just the way it is sold: ‘your device uses microphones to ‘listen’ to any nearby TV or music playing’. It’s like personifying my phone. When does it decide to ‘listen’? Is it ‘listening’ all the time, just hoping for a snippet of the newest Sam Smith tune?

When the device recognises a song or TV show, the user has the ability to share the information with the rest of their Facebook gang. They can either choose or have it automatically posted. However, automating the service has left some users cold. One Facebook user said: “I have no interest in Facebook ‘observing’ what I’m up to. I feel like there’s no trust anymore.”

As well as this weirdly intrusive new feature, Facebook has finally begun making posts automatically private for naïve new users. In the past if you signed up to a new account, all of your ‘personal’ details, i.e. date of birth, where you’re from was deemed private immediately. However, all of your status updates, pictures uploaded of your Gran or your breakfast were automatically shared as ‘public’. This meant you had to go into your privacy settings and change everything to ‘friends only’. Not rocket science, but many users didn’t know about this, not realising everything they posted was posted to the whole world.

I’ve been caught out a few times. I used to make some posts on my feed ‘public’. This means that when someone searched for me, they could see only my profile picture, the fact that I’m female, and any posts that I had made specifically public.

BUT. If I posted something as public, automatically everything else I posted afterwards was public, unless I remembered to change it back to ‘friends only’. I’ve had a few messages from my mother (who is a privacy fanatic) saying: “Your Facebook is open to the world again!”

I love keeping my Facebook ‘exclusive’. Keeping my friends list down to people I actually like, and speak to. I’m still searchable though, and although I’m pretty careful these days, some of my family members have taken it to the extreme, unable to be found unless they choose to be.

How anonymous can we be on the internet?

 Think back to the days when we all first started getting the internet in our homes. This was before all the (correct) worry and panic about predators on the net, and chatrooms were commonplace. I started using chatrooms immediately, and I believe I was about 10.

Make up a user name (something like xxxcoolgirl2003xxx, come on, I was 10!), and the messages start flooding in.

‘A/S/L?’ – age, sex, location. In other words, who are you? I always said I was 14, from America. Nothing sinister ever happened, but I do remember speaking to many older men. Regardless of the fact that I was hiding behind my username and fake information, they still knew they were chatting with someone who at 14, was underage.

I did feel anonymous though. Nowadays, our digital identities are more adhered to our real lives. Linking accounts, logging in to something ‘via Facebook’, and updating in real-time. I believe we leave much more permanent imprints online today than we ever did in the past.

I don’t believe you can ever be anonymous on the web. The apps promoting anonymity, such as Whisper, Secret could still identify you if they needed to, I reckon. It’s a marketing gimmick – you can’t really advertise something as being ‘semi-anonymous’!

Just be careful, don’t give away too much! Tighten your inner circle, get rid of so and so from 10 years ago who keeps asking you to play Jelly-bloody-Splash.

And DON’T ever be as ridiculous as this girl:

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