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May 22, 2014

Facebook to unveil new audio recognition feature

Your smartphone is set to eavesdrop on you

By Vinod

Facebook is set to unveil a new ‘audio recognition’ feature on its mobile app that ‘eavesdrops’ on users’ music and TV shows and publish the information on profile or selected friends.

The announcement was made by Facebook as it prepares to stave off Twitter’s stiff competition in becoming the main online venue where sports, music, TV shows and other modes of entertainment are discussed in real-time.

Similar to Shazam, the new tool can detect music and live TV shows in 15 seconds with the help of the microphones that are fitted into mobiles, and creates a status update that detects the song or show that a user is listening to and presents a preview to his/her friends for 30 seconds. The feature is off by default and must be user activated.

However, Facebook said that this feature can only recognise videos or songs and background sounds will not be stored. For example, if a TV show is recognised, that particular episode and season being viewed would be highlighted and shared in the user’s news feed.

It took nearly a year of engineering and logistics work to create the feature. To detect live shows on TV, Facebook signed agreements with 160 TV stations in the US to obtain audio files. Facebook is also trying to tie up with streaming music services, such as Rdio, Spotify and Deezer.

With the new feature, Facebook hopes to rake in on the millions of status updates related to TV shows and music shared between users by stealthily pushing an advert to a user’s phone based on their listening habits.

The new feature will soon be available on the Android and iOS versions of its app in the US in the coming weeks. It also builds on another addition to the Facebook platform launched in 2013, where users can add emoticons that symbolize activities or emotions to their status updates.

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This has, however, raised concerns of privacy for some users, who liken it to a ‘snooping device’ installed on phones.

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