The controversial software patent Facebook had applied for consists of a system which lets it quietly tell people's smartphones to capture "ambient audio".

Concerns raised over Facebooks patent for software that can turn on smartphone mics
Atom Privacy Monday, July 02, 2018 - 10:16

In an attempt to assuage concerns raised by Facebook's filing for a patent for software that could turn the mics of smartphones on in order to record secret messages in TV ads, the social networking giant has ruled out using the technology in any of its products.

The patent had been filed "to prevent aggression from other companies," Facebook Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Allen Lo told Engadget in a statement this week.

The technology in this patent has not been included in any of Facebook's products, "and never will be", Lo said. 

According to a report in Metro, the controversial software patent Facebook had applied for consists of a system which lets it quietly tell people's smartphones to capture "ambient audio".

The technology is designed to monitor what people watch on their "broadcasting device" so that the adverts they are shown on Facebook are likely to appeal to them, and give companies an accurate sense of the size of the audience which has viewed their promotion.

While the invasive nature of the technology has raised eyebrows for its potential to violate privacy, Facebook said it had no intention of implementing the technology described in the patent.

Facebook has been under severe criticism for months now ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke out.

In fact, there have also been reports that Facebook entered into data-sharing partnership with 52 technology companies, including Chinese companies like Alibaba, Huawei, Lenovo and Oppo, the social networking giant said in its latest response to Energy and Commerce Committee of the US House of Representatives.

In its 747-page response to questions raised by the committee, Facebook said it had already ended partnerships with 38 of them with seven more due to expire in July and one more in October this year, Engadget reported on Saturday.

However, Facebook said that three partnerships - involving Apple, Amazon and Tobii, an accessibility app that enables people with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) to access Facebook - are due to continue beyond October this year.

Facebook said that it implemented tougher sharing controls in 2014 and gave third-party app developers one year of time to comply with the new rules.

However, 61 companies got as much as six months of extra time to wind down their data collection practices, the report said.

There are concerns Facebook has been using semantics to share data beyond a US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) consent decree requiring the site to obtain permission before collecting more data than a person's privacy settings allow, the Engadget report said.

But in its new response, Facebook claimed that it was not violating the decree.

Also read: Facebook being 'evasive' over Cambridge Analytica: UK lawmakers

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