Facebook recently added a feature that monitors your movements, and now the company will be listening in as well.
Facebook unveiled a new audio recognition feature on Wednesday which, when turned on, will identify songs or television shows that you’re listening to, in hopes you’ll share that information with your friends.
With the update, the Facebook app will use the phone’s microphone to listen in on noise and sounds nearby. The feature is able to identify millions of songs and TV shows from 160 different stations, according to Aryeh Selekman, a product manager at the company.
When the app identifies what you’re listening to or watching, the content will either appear automatically in the post (you can remove it), or it will be one click away in the “Feelings” tab above the keyboard. The new feature is opt-in, meaning it won’t work unless you manually turn it on. Once it’s activated, it will remain on until you turn it off in the top-right corner of the compose page.
The feature can also identify live TV, including sporting events. When a song is recognized and then shared, your friends will be able to listen to a 30-second preview of that song right within the feed. Users previously had to leave Facebook to listen to a song shared by one of their friends.
The new tool is an extension of Facebook’s “Feelings” feature, unveiled last April. Users have enjoyed sharing feelings, according to Selekman, and more than 5 billion posts in the past year have included a feeling or activity. Users who access the feelings list by clicking on the smiley face icon above the keyboard will now be prompted to turn on the audio recognition tool, but it won’t be required.
The tool makes it easier for users to share what they’re listening to or watching on Facebook, but it’s also a way for Facebook to listen in on the content its user base is spending time with. If the feature is turned on, it will automatically spring into action when a user goes to the compose page. If a song or show is identified, but the user chooses not to share it, Facebook still has that data.
Selekman says that no audio is actually recorded or shared to company servers. So if you are talking while the app’s audio feature is operating, your words won’t be saved or stored by Facebook.
This is Facebook’s second feature in as many months that gathers user data that marketers are seeking. The Nearby Friends feature the company rolled out in April allows users to share their locations with friends at the touch of a button. The more people use it, the more Facebook learns where people spend their time. Some people find this creepy, although Facebook says the data is not monetized.
Wednesday’s new audio-recognition feature required a number of partnerships among the company and those in the television and music industries. Selekman, who worked on Facebook’s partnership team at one point during his carer, declined to specify the number or nature of the partnerships.
Facebook has been building the tool for over a year, and employees have been testing it for the “past few months,” says Selekman. One of the technical challenges Facebook faced was identifying commercials. Facebook simply looks for sound codes that are repeated often, giving the app a good sense of which audio bites are from commercials versus actual TV shows.
Facebook launching the feature out to U.S. users beginning Wednesday, but it will be a “slow rollout,” says Selekman. There is no timetable for when all users will have the new feature.[via Mashable]