Does Facebook overhear my conversations?

A Quora user asked the question above that seem to be on many people’s minds.

Although Facebook has denied overhearing users’ conversations, there are two main reasons why people believe this theory:

  • Confirmation biasWe say hundreds of things daily, yet Facebook doesn’t show an ad related to each one of them. However, in those few instances that we see a Facebook ads which coincides with what we just said we’ll remember it because it really stands out – but we’ll forget about all those other times nothing happened. Given a really large sample even events with small probability will happen at some point, and when those events do happen we pay much more attention to them, especially if they corroborate a theory we have about something.
  • Facebook’s targeting: Facebook already has a lot of data based on what people click and view on the Internet (not just on Facebook, but on all websites that have the Facebook pixel) and even what their friends like. This makes Facebook’s targeting very potent and, inevitably, you will be targeted with ads that are really relevant to what you like or browse on the Internet. Moreover, even if you haven’t clicked directly on something but it’s liked by your friends or related to pages and people you follow, there are chances that you might see an ad for that product.

So, all in all, the combination of Facebook’s vast database, targeting system and the fact that we tend to remember events that stand out, make people think that Zuck is listening to them all the time.