29/06/2018 10:03 AM IST | Updated 29/06/2018 10:03 AM IST

Facebook Applied For A Patent To Secretly Record You - But Won't Actually Do This?

It's also going to delete election content.

dolphfyn / Alamy

Ever felt like your phone is listening in on you? Maybe you met a friend and had a cup of coffee, and then the next thing you know, all your Facebook ads were about things you talked about - even if you never searched for them online? Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had told the US Congress that Facebook would never secretly record user audio, but a recently filed patent shows how Facebook is working on doing exactly that.

As reported by Gizmodo, the company has filed a patent titled "broadcast content view analysis based on ambient audio recording", which could allow it to identify ads being played on TV via an audio signature, to perform analytics on television ads. It's worth noting that some companies already offer this kind of technology - to help improve the effectiveness of TV advertising, to understand viewership patterns, and so on - but absolutely none of them have the same kind of scale as Facebook.

The recordings can be used, Gizmodo noted, to tell if a viewer mutes the channel when an ad is on TV, or gets up an walks away - ignoring the ad that's being played. This kind of audio fingerprint was also used recently by a Spanish soccer app - to find out if bars were playing league matches without authorisation.

A report in Tech Republic showed that the official La Liga app, which had over 10 million downloads, used a combination of the microphone and location features when matches were taking place, to check for "control codes" in order to tell if someone was watching a match and if so, were they in a public space that wasn't licensed to broadcast the match?

Taking down election content

In India, Facebook has offered to take down all election related content two days ahead of polling, according to an Indian Expressreport. It is offering to remove all content flagged by the Election Commission, in what could be the first collaborative effort between a social media platform and the Election Commission.

Earlier this year, before the Karnataka state elections, the Election Commission of India had suggested that sharing or re-tweeting election-related contents would be in violation of the Model Code of Conduct. An Economic Timesreport said the Election Commission was mulling making this a civil offence.

The Indian Express also reported that the Election Commission also wants to work with YouTube to see what the video platform can do to remove election related content, show pop-ups on screen about political ads, and it also asked Facebook to consider not accepting election advertisements during the 48 hours before polling.