The rumors of Facebook’s omnipresence have been greatly exaggerated, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
During his second day of congressional testimony on Wednesday, Zuckerberg shot down speculation the social network taps into users’ microphones in an effort to pepper them with targeted ads.
Rep Larry Buchson (R-Indiana) brought up the topic, saying, “plenty of anecdotal examples” made him suspicious. The congressman pointed to his mother-in-law recently talking about her dead brother, only to be greeted with a picture of her sibling when she next logged into Facebook.
Coincidence or surveillance?
Zuckerberg quickly insisted Facebook isn’t listening to its users for clues.
“If you’re not listening to us on the phone, who is?” asked Rep. Buchson. “And do you have specific contracts with these companies that will provide data that is being acquired verbally, through our phones or now through things like Alexa or other products?”
“Congressman, we’re not collecting any information verbally on the microphone, and we don’t have contracts with anyone else doing this,” replied Zuckerberg. “The only time that we might use the microphone is when you’re recording a video, or doing something where you intentionally try to record audio. But we don’t have anything that’s trying to listen to what’s going on in the background.”
Rep. Bucshon still didn’t seem sold, however, saying his “business guy” son will see ads for suits after talking about his wardrobe. It’s “Pretty obvious to me someone is listening to the audio on our phones,” said the congressman.
The exchange came a day after Senator Gary Peters asked Zuckerberg the same question.
“Yes or no: Does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about its users?,” asked Sen. Peters asked.
“No,” responded Zuckerberg.
The chief exec was on hand to address the company’s massive data leak, where 87 million users had their information pulled by political firm Cambridge Analytica in 2014. Zuckerberg took responsibility for the leak, as well as other issues that have plagued the company in recent years, like Russian trolls pushing misinformation during the 2016 U.S. election.