I-TEAM investigates: Is Facebook listening to your conversations?

Facebook users noticed ads related to topics discussed

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The I-TEAM is looking into something that many of you use every day, or several times a day -- Facebook.

We wanted to know if the social network site monitors your personal conversations through the microphone on your smartphone, giving you ads based on what you say.

The I-TEAM sat down with two groups of users of Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, and conducted a pair of experiments.

The participants talked about a variety of topics, with their phones in front of them, then checked their feeds to see what they saw.

We talked with four students from the University of North Florida about everything from travel to fitness.
Ads tied to some of the topics soon showed up in their personal Facebook.

Then, we talked with two moms about different topics, like banking and makeup.  Their social media feeds were also impacted.

The results were surprising for the people involved.

"I do think it's an invasion at some point, but I do think we share more than we realize," said Shannon Beckham, a mother.  "Looking at this and then with the whole thing with the government hacking into the terrorist's phone, and Apple wouldn't give out the information, I'm thinking, 'But Apple, you're listening, and who knows what you're doing with that information that you're hearing.'"

"It's so creepy, its so creepy," said UNF student Jamie Swann. "I mean, for anyone to say it's not creepy is just fooling themselves, it's beyond what I ever thought I would see."

After these experiments, the I-TEAM talked with Facebook and asked the company if it is spying on users, to send them specific ads.

Tonight on Channel 4's The Ten O'Clock News, find out what their response was, and find out what you can do to keep your conversations private, when your smartphone is at hand.

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