Recent rumors that Facebook is preparing its "smart voice assistant" rival Amazon Echo and Google Home, has given rise to a legitimate concern. Will the social network spy on users in the real world in order to influence their lives on the Internet? Facebook's VP of Advertising Rob Goldman said the company "has never done this before and has no plans to do so in the future."
Meanwhile, the very technologies for acoustic espionage and analysis of what a person is doing outside the Internet is definitely at the disposal of Facebook. Back in 2015, the company filed a patent for a system that creates an "acoustic footprint" by matching ambient sound and electrical signals in HDMI cables. Roughly speaking, if you decide to watch a video on your big screen, then the Facebook robot will be able to find out which one, even without having direct access to the player or files.
Another patent application directly describes the technology of recording short fragments of sounds from the environment for subsequent analysis in order to understand what the user is watching on TV. To do this, the broadcast is constantly scanned to determine the moment the TV is turned on, after which the microphone of a computer or smartphone begins to record high-frequency marker signals from TV shows and advertisements. The data is sent to the server, where it turns into building blocks of a user's personal profile, a description of his interests and needs.
In either case, there is no question of direct eavesdropping on a person, so top managers do not cheat when they deny the accusations. But how these technologies differ from classic "spyware" is not easy to figure out. Yes, it can be recalled that all large companies collect technologies "in reserve" in order to avoid conflicts with patent trolls. And which of them will actually be used for commercial purposes, usually no one knows, including the development companies themselves.