During his testimony last Tuesday before a committee of British MPs, Wylie said the tool was exposed when many users noticed strange ads popping up about things they were talking about.
Wylie said Facebook has been abusing audio surveillance programs for quite some time, and that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Chairman Damian Collins asked Wylie whether Facebook has been listening to what people have been talking about in their private lives in order to better target them with ads.
As reported by PJ Media, here’s Wylie’s full response:
“On a comment about using audio and processing audio, you can use it for, my understanding generally of how companies use it… not just Facebook, but generally other apps that pull audio, is for environmental context.”
“So if, for example, you have a television playing versus if you’re in a busy place with a lot of people talking versus a work environment. There’s audio that could be useful just in terms of are you in an office environment, are you outside, are you watching TV?”
Facebook has denied allegations that it has been listening and spying on users to customize ads, but Wylie’s testimony blows a gaping hole in that assertion.
Adding to the numerous scandals rocking Facebook in recent months, many users have raised concerns that they have noticed they are being targeted with ads for products they haven’t expressed an interest in online.
Wylie contends the Facebook app is listening to users private conversations to collect information that can help promote targeted ads for products.
For example, if someone near their cell phone — who had the Facebook app — mentioned Gatorade or McDonalds, they would begin noticing ads promoting those two products.
While they may not have searched online for those two products, the Facebook app reportedly has been abusing audio surveillance programs to listen to what people have been talking about.
Wylie was testifying amid a claim that Cambridge Analytica, who briefly helped President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, abused Facebook to target voters.
Amid numerous scandals that the social media giant sold users private data and failed to protect it from third-party entities, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed to testify before Congress.
If Facebook has been listening and spying on users, that could be one of the biggest scandals in modern history.
Watch the entire hearing below, with the discussion on Facebook beginning around the 2-hour and 58-minute mark.