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Facebook files patent to record ambient audio from smartphones, says will never use it

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Patent filings have revealed that Facebook may be working on a controversial piece of tech which will allow it to trigger a user's device (like a smartphone) to start recording audio whenever they hear inaudible messages hidden in television adverts. The patent spotted first by Metro, is titled “broadcast content view analysis based on ambient audio recording.” The patent describes a system in which an “ambient audio fingerprint or signature” that’s inaudible to humans could be embedded in broadcast content like a TV ad. When a hypothetical user is watching this ad, the audio fingerprint could trigger their smartphone or another device (like a smart speaker) to turn on its microphone, begin recording audio and share that recording with Facebook. Gizmodo examined the patent and suggested that it is vague on the details of what exactly Facebook plans to do with the audio data. One scenario offered as an example in the patent document is where recorded ambient audio would be eliminated and the content playing on the broadcast would be identified, think of it as a Shazam for advertisements (h/t Nilay Patel for that example). Details about the user's proximity to the audio, time of day, the identity of the Facebook user present would then be sent to the social media giant for further analysis and processing. Facebook could then combine existing data it collects from its user's browsing habits and content they share on the platform with this audio information to figure out which ads are the most…

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Writes about consumer technology, social media, digital services and tech policy. Is a gadget freak, gamer and Star Wars nerd.

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