Once again, anti-Facebook momentum has generated rapidly across the breadth of the internet, this time in response to a new feature having the ability to access and record sounds. The installation is intended to allow users to help update their profile; once the sound of a programme you are watching or music you are listening to is detected, it will display this on your profile as a status, in a manner akin to Shazam or SoundHound.
For those who desperately need to publicise to the world the fact they are watching The Simpsons or Hollyoaks almost daily, this feature presents a gloriously easy method of doing so. For many of us, however, it raises questions as to the integrity of Facebook having the ability to listen in and record our conversations. What will Mark Zuckerberg and his cronies do with these recordings, and why? It all seems very Orwellian; a violation of what we typically deem to be private.
As a response to this heavy criticism, Facebook has defended the feature and dismissed all accusations of Big Brother behaviour. It has outlined the fact that in order to the feature to work, it must be turned on or off manually at the user’s discretion, whilst data is stored for a short period of time only. The statement made on Facebook’s ‘Newsroom’ appears patronising and apathetic, but it does confirm that the social media monster is in fact not attempting to monitor every aspect of our lives but is simply aiming to make interaction with the site more accessible.
Still concerns remain as to what might happen should the NSA and its foreign equivalents, the pesky intelligence authorities who were recently roused for their uncouth surveillance techniques by whistleblower Edward Snowden, obtain access to such recordings. The NSA has already accessed Facebook data through lawful requests in order to monitor specific individuals, a legitimate process by which to ensure national security. But the Agency has also attempted to exert its data collecting operations by posing as Facebook to access its user traffic, despite not having permission to do so. Furthermore, if the NSA has the ability and desire to allegedly hack Angela Merkel’s phone, why should it lack the confidence to covertly access Facebook sound recordings? If any sincere threat of a perversion of our privacy is to be made resulting from this new feature, it will come from the meddling and intrusion of global governmental surveillance programmes rather than from Facebook itself.