Use Facebook on your Android device? Better watch out.

I am sharing my personal experiences here. And I promise the readers that neither my experiences, nor the conclusions are based on any conspiracy theory floating around in the internet.

I always believed that using Android phone was a bad idea, may be becuase I was never impressed by Google in their privacy policies - well, I’ll try to share the reasons for that sometime later. However, that uneasiness rised to a level of alertness when I started observing something strange - someone (or something) appeared to me as eavesdropping on my private in-person conversations at my home.

It all started with certain health related discussion. The time when I used to be regular in my office gym, one of my colleagues introduced me to a certain workout - planks, in which you just have to support your body over the hands and the toes with the rest of the body positioned like a “plank”.

Image for representation purpose only.
However, this was not just as easy as it sounds, it is very difficult for a man of average fitness to remain in this position for over two minutes - this had really surprised me. But that was many years ago, way before my marriage. Around an year back, when I started to get fitness concious again, one of the first things that came to my mind was planks and I started doing it and boasting about my progress to my wife. She had never heard of “planks” before ever in her life till then. However, after a few days of talkings over it, she started getting Facebook feeds particularly about “planks”. I am quite sure that neither of us has ever lookup up on the internet on planks. As I was already irritated with Google, I took it for granted that Google might be eavesdropping on our conversations through her Android phone.

That reminded me of a certain conversation with a friend of mine some time back. He had complained of Ads., related to something he had spoken only over the phone - no googling, no social media activity. I spoke of my experience and the incident that occured to my friend, with my colleagues and friends. Strangely, most of them have faced similar incidents. Many had reported seeing feeds on items from their verbal conversations. But somehow, the focus was fully on the immoralities of Google, until a recent day when something similar happened.
During our college days, my wife and me were so obsessed with a certain Arabian dish named “Shawarma” which was widely available in our college neighbourhood. Once we left the college, we totally forgot about the awesome dish until recently, when while roaming around in a mall here in Pune, my wife noticed a shop selling Shawarma. Since we were not hungry at that time, we decided to have it the next weekend. We have discussed over it almost everyday since then, but of course no googling, no social media activity and no mails or messages. In the days which followed, my wife started getting Facebook feeds on Shawarma - I swear neither of us have ever been reminded of Shawarma during the past few yers, let alone Ads., not by anything on earth. This time I made a strange observation - the Ads. related to the items of our conversation was appering only on Facebook, not in any other Google search results, not in any other websites.

It was getting conclusive. It was indeed not Google as I believed, rather it could be Facebook that might be evesdropping on our conversations. I had another round of discussions with my colleagues, most of them concur that they have noticed similar Ads. only on Facebook. I checked my wifes Android phone, which was running Android 5.0 for microphone access for Facebook. Well, it was there, but could not be revoked since the app persmissions cannot be revoked on Android, atleast for versions before Mashmellow. That left me with only two choices - compromise to the idea of having evesdropped almost always or get the Facebook application removed from the phone at the earliest (well, since FB was a stock app, it could not be removed, but could be “disabled”). I chose to go with the second option.

I looked upon the issue on Google, and it seems that some people out there in fact agree with my observations. Below are certain articles from The Independent and The Verge on the topics:

I have already noticed that Facebook has turned down the theory, but I am afraid I do not believe Facebook’s version. Though the observations which we have had cannot be taken as conclusive evidences for such an evesdropping, I do not think that it can be ignored as well.

Now it is upto you, the readers to have a take on yours. I do not insist anyone to get rid of Facebook or Android, I am well aware of the importance of social media like Facebook and low cost mobile operating systems for the society. Just shared an alerting observation which I had so that we could ponder for the facts together, and discourage such practices, if they are not just “conspiracy theories". Please do share your experiences as comments below (of course I am using Facebook plugins itself for collecting the comments. LoL)