Tag Archives: Facebook

Instagram and Facebook Can Use Your Photos, and You Agreed to It

They say always read the fine print. And when it comes to apps, not many actually do.

When you signed up with Instagram or Facebook you had to agree to the terms of service. You probably didn’t read it. You likely don’t remember tapping ‘agree’, but there’s no going back on that now.

That hasn’t stopped people from trying to block either app’s access to their photos after the fact… with a chain-letter.

Chain-letter Hoax Still Going

Since 2012 users have been posting a chain-letter hoax with a fake deadline. The letter warns their followers that there’s a new rule that allows either Instagram or Facebook to use their photos. And to opt out of the rule, they’re encouraged to repost the letter of course.

From there it contains a legal passage that attempts to thwart the supposedly new policy from affecting the poster.

“I do not give Instagram or any entities associated with Instagram permission to use my pictures, information, messages or posts, both past and future,” it reads. “With this statement, I give notice to Instagram it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take action against me based on this profile and/or its contents.”

Nice try, but anyone posting this has given the app access to their GPS, location, camera and photos. Posting a chain-letter won’t revoke privileges that have already been granted.

In fact, the apps often need access to these features on your phone to function. So restricting access isn’t always worth it, even when you can.

Facebook has stated that they also collect info about your network, the device your using, and many other data points.

And to be clear, Instagram and Facebook can access much more than the photos you post to their platform. The company has access to your entire photo library!

How Facebook Uses Your Photos

Would Mark Zuckerberg and friends ever actually harvest your photos and use it on their app without your permission?

Actually, their ad platform does this frequently. However, before you get alarmed, it’s not nearly as bad as you might assume. Some functions show your photos to you exclusively, rather than your friends or the public.

They will use a photo you uploaded earlier to grab your attention and encourage you to run an ad.

Another way Facebook uses your photos is by showing you a memory you posted several years ago and encouraging you to repost it with an updated caption.

Blocking Instagram’s Access to Photos on Your Phone

So, is it possible to simply block apps like Instagram from getting to your photos via the settings in Android or iOS? Yes, you can block them from scraping data associated with your images.

On an Apple device launch ‘Settings,’ then tap on ‘Instagram.’ From there you tap ‘Photos,’ then select ‘Never.’

Consider Using a VPN with Instagram and Facebook

Those that still have privacy concerns may want to review their privacy settings within the app, and then considering using a VPN.

A VPN (virtual private server) acts like an encrypted tunnel between your device and the internet for improved privacy and security.

Using a VPN hides your location and other private data so apps and websites can’t collect as much information about you.

To learn more, read LetMeBy’s reviews of the top VPN providers.

Conclusion

Instagram and Facebook collect data about your photos and have access to everything you upload to the apps as well as your photo gallery by default.

Luckily there are measures you can take to limit their access to your data. You can do this with privacy settings in the app, system settings, or with a VPN. Be aware, simply posting a chain-letter regarding revoking access to your photos won’t do any good.

Is Facebook Listening to Your Conversations? Not Exactly

Have you ever gotten that eerie feeling that someone is watching you? Of course, right? It’s a common phenomenon. Michael Jackson even wrote a song about it:

I always feel like somebody’s watching me
And I have no privacy

Facebook can give you that same impression when the app displays an ad that relates to something you just discussed privately on your smartphone.

Imagine you just got off the phone with your local florist. You launch Facebook out of habit, and the first ad you see is 1800Flowers.

The most obvious explanation is that Facebook must have spied on your conversation.

So, is Facebook listening? Likely not how you think they are (via recording audio), and it’s complicated. First, let’s look at why conspiracy theories about this abound, then examine the evidence.

Many Don’t Trust Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg

Research company Toluna found that Facebook is the least trusted tech company by a considerable amount. Forty percent of said they didn’t trust Facebook with their personal information.

Mark Zuckerberg has been grilled by congress on numerous occasions. They’ve blasted him for failing to curb the proliferation of fake news, not fact-checking political ads, Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency, etc. Each time he appears in congress people the public is reminded that Zuckerberg is generally viewed with suspicion by government leaders.

Audio Transcription Tech Raises Concerns

In August 2019 Bloomberg wrote a piece about Facebook contacting an external company to create software that transcribes audio conversations in their Messenger app. The transcription tech was tested on users that opted in, and the possibility of human review of conversations was part of the terms associated with using it.

To the average reader this was confirmation that Facebook is indeed spying on its users’ private conversations. Years of conspiratorial speculations rose to the surface, as this news was exactly what Facebook’s critics needed to add legitimacy to their theories.

It was Senator Gary Peters that asked Zuckerberg whether Facebook listens to conversations and then generates targeted ads with that data. Zuckerberg replied, “You’re talking about this conspiracy theory that gets passed around that we listen to what’s going on on your microphone and use that for ads. We don’t do that.”

Facebook has attempted to set the matter straight via their Newsroom. They’ve stated that ads are generated based on people’s profile information: their interests, job title, brands they follow, etc., and not what you’re talking out loud about.

Is Spying on Users Practical or Even Possible?

Despite anecdotal claims that Facebook must be listening, the data doesn’t add up.

Wandera, a mobile cyber-security company, conducted a test to determine if audio picked up with the phone’s mic influences which ads are displayed.

They put a Samsung and Apple iPhone in a room, then played an audio loop of pet food ads for 30 minutes per day, for three days. They placed another set of phones in a silent room so they could compare the results.

No pet food ads appeared on any of the phones. And more tellingly, there were no differences in data consumption, battery use, and background activity.

Experts have pointed out that it would take an incredible amount of server resources for Facebook to listen to over 150 million daily active users in the U.S. alone.

Alternatively, if Facebook were to scan audio for keywords coming into the microphone it would take a considerable amount of your phone’s CPU processing power which would be impossible to hide.

Another reason Facebook would almost certainly never even consider doing this is it’s illegal to collect audio recordings of people.

Do You VPN?

People that simply don’t trust Zuck or Facebook can use a VPN to mask their location, IP address, etc. Read about LetMeBy’s top VPN picks to learn more.

A Reality Check

The truth is there are much more efficient and effective ways to gather data about users than harvesting audio.

Facebook has a complex algorithm that considers the information you post or input when determining which ads to show you.

It can be so stunningly accurate in determining what products or services you’re interested in you’d swear they must be listening to you. However, what really happened is the algorithm made an educated guess and managed to hit the bullseye.

There are valid reasons not to trust Facebook due to lack of privacy but spying on your conversations is not one based on the evidence.