Did you know when you signed up for Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, you gave them explicit permission to use your microphone? Ever wonder how targeted ads show up in your feed when you have only ever talked out loud to someone else about it?

Is Zuckerberg listening to your private conversations? No, I am afraid not.

There is no proof that a guy is sitting in an office somewhere in Menlo Park, listening to you screaming to your partner to bring you toilet paper. Facebook has denied allegations of privacy violations time after time, and as much as we want to believe they are spying on us, there is no way yet to prove it.

There’s never been any concrete evidence – beyond hearsay and anecdotes – that Facebook is recording your real-life conversations.

The fact is, the mechanics involved in listening to your private conversations and mining it for keywords wouldn’t be an easy thing. But that is not why you should know that they aren’t listening.

They don’t need to listen; they already have all the data they need from you. But, if you are not the trusting type and still want to block Facebook from having access to the microphone on your device, do the following:

On the iPhone:

  • Go to Settings
  • Choose Privacy
  • Tap Microphone
  • Toggle Facebook to OFF

On Android:

  • Go to Settings
  • Choose Apps & Notifications
  • Locate Facebook
  • Tap Permissions
  • Toggle Microphone to OFF

Easy-peasy.

how does facebook track me?

When you sign up for Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram, you agree to their data policy. On Facebook, you agree to let them collect data that “includes information about the websites and apps you visit, your use of our services on those websites and apps, as well as information the developer or publisher of the app or website provides to you or us.”

Facebook also always knows your location. When Apple and Google announced new features in their operating systems that allow users to limit apps from knowing your location, Facebook threw a fit and wrote a blog post telling everyone that it would dramatically affect the user experience. Believe it or not, the blog post tries to make the argument that protecting your privacy is bad for you.

But wait, there’s more. Facebook also analyzes “photos and videos we think you’re in, such as your profile picture and photos you’ve already been tagged in, to create a template for you. We use your template to recognize you in other photos, videos and other places where the camera is used (like live video) on Facebook.” – Facebook help center

Thankfully, in the help center, they explain how to turn this “feature” off.

And finally, Facebook touts an ad marketing service called “Lookalike Audiences,” which goes even deeper into the data they collect from us and allows advertisers to target people by their ages or likes. The feature lets marketers examine their existing customers, audience, or even voters for predispositions — like big spending or left-leaning ideals — and have Facebook find other users with similar inclinations.

This information is by no means exhaustive, and if you want to find out exactly what data Facebook collects, find out straight from the source.

how do i make it stop?

Frankly, there is no way to completely stop all the data collection behind the scenes, even on other websites and platforms. But, there is a way to prevent other websites from sharing information with Facebook about you.

Go to your “Off-Facebook Activity” (the link takes you directly there), and you can see which sites and apps are sharing data. Once there, you can clear your history, turn off tracking for specific websites or apps, or stop this tracking completely. To be clear, if you turn tracking off, Facebook will still get information about your activity; it just won’t be associated with you or your account.

the only way to stop facebook, messenger, and instagram

On the internet, you and your attention are the product that platforms like Facebook are selling to the highest bidder. These platforms are making billions by giving advertisers audiences with unlimited attention.

They record every scroll and click. Every time you hesitate to look at an ad, Facebook knows you showed interest, and because they know, so does anyone with a credit card who wants to target you for an ad.

Sadly, many have given up trying to protect themselves and look at data collection as a necessary evil. They willingly trade their attention and privacy for the “privilege” of using these social media apps for free.

Until we force Facebook and the others to stop making money by monetizing our attention and activities, we may have to accept that these platforms will know our every move and will sell that information to anyone with cash money.

The only way to make sure Facebook is not tracking you and associating that data with you and your account is to delete it entirely from your lives and devices.

(Note: Before you delete your Facebook account, you may want to get a copy of your data file, especially if you have pictures you want to save.)

  • Click in the top right of Facebook.
  • Select Settings & Privacy, then click Settings
  • Click Your Facebook Information in the left column.
  • Click Deactivation and Deletion.
  • Choose Permanently Delete Account, then click Continue to Account Deletion.
  • Click Delete Account, enter your password, and then click Continue.

Source – Facebook Help

to remove facebook from your device

Android

  1. Go to your Android’s settings and open your application manager.
  2. Tap Facebook.
  3. Tap Uninstall.

– iPhone and iPad

  1. Press and hold the app icon.
  2. Tap the x that appears.
  3. To confirm, tap Delete.

Source – Facebook Help

Take it from me; life without Facebook is not horrible. As long as you don’t need Facebook to promote a business, life without can free up some time and attention for you.

If you don’t want to be so drastic and you want to keep Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram, know a lot is going on behind the scenes that we don’t see, and as hard as we try, there never will be a way to be completely private on the internet.

That is unless you go off the grid and live in a van, down by the river.

I’ll bring my flannel shirt and Crocs.