Target: Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, Inc.
Goal: Convince Facebook to abandon its plan to listen in on consumers via smartphone microphones
Facebook recently announced that the newest upgrade to its smartphone app will include a feature that will allow the tech company to listen in to sounds in the smartphone’s proximity via the built-in microphone. The purported purpose of this feature is to identify the music being listened to or the television programming being watched and integrate this information into voluntary status updates. However, this technology would also allow the company to potentially listen in on private conversations and store that information indefinitely.
Although Facebook spokespeople have given assurances that the feature would never be used this way, the company has already been caught lying about both its methods of data collection and its involvement in government surveillance. It claims that what the app hears will get turned into data before it is stored, and that it will always be anonymized and aggregated, but no indication has been given that such data will not be sold to third parties or made available to government agencies. Since Facebook has cooperated with the National Security Agency (NSA) electronic data surveillance program in the past, there is real concern that this new collection method will lead to further violations of privacy.
Facebook has also stressed that the new feature will be completely optional, but it has in the past switched optional settings to automatic ones without prior notification. The ability to listen to us through our phones without our knowledge is a gross invasion of privacy in an age when the right to privacy is becoming more restricted everyday.
Tell Facebook that this new feature has too much potential to be used irresponsibly and is an unwelcome incursion into our private lives. Urge the company to abandon its plans to spy on consumers via the microphones on their mobile devices.
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,
The new listen feature that you plan to roll out with your company’s smartphone app is an unwelcome and highly suspicious invasion of our privacy. The potential for abuse is high enough to outweigh any possible conveniences that might be gleaned from such a feature. As consumers our ability to trust corporations with our private data has already been strained by recent NSA revelations, and we are not willing to give you the benefit of the doubt that such a feature will not quietly become automatic or that the data will not be shared without our knowledge.
Trust must be earned, and listening in on our private lives is not a way to do that. If you want us to share our data you must first prove that such a privilege will not be abused. Please abandon your plan to release software that enables you to listen to us through our phones’ microphones.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Kvarki1 via Wikimedia Commons