I suppose we all suspected that this was going on, but this appears to be confirmation of that suspicion. He says they don’t actually listen to the context of the audio, but …
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christoper Wylie, appearing before a committee of British MPs on Tuesday, said that Facebook has the ability to spy on users in their homes and offices. He said, in reply to a question:
“On a comment about using audio and processing audio, you can use it for, my understanding generally of how companies use it… not just Facebook, but generally other apps that pull audio, is for environmental context,” Wylie said. “So if, for example, you have a television playing versus if you’re in a busy place with a lot of people talking versus a work environment.” He clarified, “It’s not to say they’re listening to what you’re saying. It’s not natural language processing. That would be hard to scale. But to understand the environmental context of where you are to improve the contextual value of the ad itself” is possible. “There’s audio that could be useful just in terms of are you in an office environment, are you outside, are you watching TV?”
Facebook denies this, But users have raised concerns about the practice after observing that they’ve been targeted with ads for products they’ve never expressed an interest in online. Many Facebook users have reported examples and alleged evidence that the app is listening in on their conversations.
Video of his testimony: