Entity reports on the ways social media giant Facebook is spying on its users.

It’s easy to forget that there was once a world without Facebook.  In fact, pre-2004 may even seem like the dark ages – at least in terms of your computer screen. What did we women do without being able to share witty and random thoughts with all our friends at just the click of a button?

To be frank, Facebook today isn’t just central to how we share our lives; it’s central to how we connect with our peers. The downside of this interconnectivity? While you’re scrolling through Facebook, Facebook might be scrolling through – and spying on – your life too.

Because today’s culture has become so rooted in Facebook, the line of privacy has become blurred.  Can your mom see the same things your best friend can see? What is Facebook actually learning about you as you spend hours on their site? These eight ways Facebook is spying on your just might change your view of this favored social media!

1 Facebook is listening…no, really.

If you’ve watched at least one horror or sci-fi movie, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “Quiet! They’re listening.” When it comes to Facebook, though, this statement is more fact than fiction. As soon as people enable the microphone features in your Facebook settings, Facebook can listen to users through their cell phones, according to NBC 4.

On its website, Facebook states: “We use your microphone to identify the things you’re listening to or watching, based on the music and TV matches we’re able to identify.” In particular, Facebook listens for buzzwords and then tailors your feed accordingly. For instance, if it hears you talking about your new Honda Fit, a car ad might pop up on your feed.

Facebook has repeatedly denied using the microphone to “inform ads or change what you see in News Feeds.” However, by the amount of discussions still occurring in Reddit, users aren’t buying it.

2 It’s not just fun and games.

If you’re not stalking your ex boyfriend or watching cute cat videos, what do you spend hours doing on Facebook? Probably playing on one of their games or apps, like Farmville, Words with Friends or even Skype. Most of these Facebook apps don’t cost you a dime…but the creators still pocket some money anyway by learning about their uses (through their Facebook pages) and selling that info to advertisers.

READ MORE: 3 Ways You Can Use Facebook (Aside from Friend Stalking)

Sure, most of this information is bland and basic like age, hometown and gender. However, some apps keep searching until they find more “private” info, such as one’s sexual orientation or religious affiliations. Who would’ve thought that while you were farming digital veggies, others were farming nuggets of information about you?

But why Facebook, why?

3 Facebook knows what you like…even if you don’t click the “like” button.

You probably already know that when you click the “like” button on a website, you’re basically shouting to the (digital) rooftops that you think that site is pretty awesome. However, you’re sharing your love of Taylor Swift with more than just your Facebook friends; Facebook and its advertisers are also alerted to your interest. Same goes for “share” and “comment” buttons.

You don’t even have to “like” a page for Facebook to recognize what kinds of bands, products, etc. you enjoy.  Using cookies, Facebook can track what sites you browse. What does this mean for your Facebook ads? Basically, if you once visited a website to look for thigh high socks for your Halloween costume, then you’re most likely going to get ads for socks for months.

4 “Private” messages may be a misnomer.

You’ve told your friends things over Facebook message that you wouldn’t dare say in person or even over the phone. That embarrassing first kiss with your newest guy. What you really think of your boss during your lunch break. Even the time you thought those pants really did make Jodi’s butt look fat, though you obviously didn’t tell her that at the time.

READ MORE: The Fall of Facebook?

I hate to break it to you, but your bestie probably isn’t the only one who’s seen those messages. Sending a link in a private Facebook message reportedly increases the “Like counter” on the third-party website where the link originated. What does that mean for you? It implies that Facebook is scanning your private messages to search for shared links, according to Emil Protalinksi. Facebook has even confirmed that information, emphasizing that it is only done for third-party websites with Facebook plugins (and not Facebook pages).

All of this goes to say that you might want to be careful what you, well, share. Because that sexy picture you send your boyfriend may be seen by more people than you planned…

5 Facebook is a front for the CIA?

Now, this claim might sound like a bit of a reach, but plenty of people believe that Facebook is using its reach to aid the national government. Sandeep Parwaga points out various headlines that show the “true character of CIAbook” including: Facebook’s Zuckerberg Says The Age of Privacy is Over; The Face of Facebook; Facebook & Social Media: A Convenient Cover for Spying, and several more.

Meanwhile, Anarchitext uses YouTube to illustrate the connection between Facebook and the CIA. Some might call these clips the “true story” or the “behind-the-scenes” section of the popular Facebook film, “The Social Network.”

6 You’re sharing more than messages with friends using Facebook’s Messenger app.

Remember when Facebook made you download its new Facebook Messenger App a few years ago? Well, you may have signed onto more than you bargained for. The Huffington Post revealed a frighteningly long list of all of the permissions granted to the app. Some of scariest ones? How about:

  • Read and modify your contacts as well as your calendar events plus confidential information
  • Use your device’s location and phone and/or its call history
  • Use your device’s text messaging and/or multimedia messaging services…[including] the ability to use text, picture or video messages
  • Use files or data stored on your device, and use your device’s camera and/or microphone,

Even if these permissions aren’t so different from the ones on the main Facebook app or other apps – as some sites claim – do you really want to take that chance? Apparently, Twitter is undecided:

7 Facebook helped create your page – and it can end it with limited warning, too.

Ever made your parents mad? Then you’ve probably heard the saying: “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it!” For Facebook, though, that isn’t an idle threat; it’s a reality. While some Facebook pages have been deleted for valid reasons, like faking or creating an offensive account, other Facebook page deaths have been a bit more…controversial, like with The Cool Hunter’s Facebook Page. Founder Bill Tikos lost five years’ worth of content and 788,000 fans and claims there was “no explanation, flimsy warnings, no instructions on what to do next…We feel that FB must change its one-sided, secret policies and deal with us, and others like us, openly and fairly.”

Facebook’s response? That The Cool Hunter violated copyright infringement multiple times and, under Facebook’s terms, the account was permanently removed. Justified or unjust? I guess that’s for comments like these from Hacker News to decide.

8 Facebook is getting inside your head.

You might intend to go on Facebook to blow off a little steam during your lunch hour or to congratulate your best friend on her recent engagement. However, Facebook is now using its powers for some major (emotional) good or evil, according to Forbes. In fact, Facebook conducted a psychological experiment on 689,003 users by tweaking their feeds and seeing how these changes affected the number of positive or negative posts a users displayed. Researchers found that when they reduced the positive expressions by others on a person’s feed, that person similarly expressed less positive posts.

READ MORE: Why Facebook Can Drain Your Ambitions 

Basically? Facebook isn’t just spying on you – they’re getting inside your head too.

What’s even worse is that the research occurred four months before Facebook included a “research” clause in their data use policy. Sure, maybe Facebook made some important discoveries with this study. But is that worth the harm they could cause by manipulating users’ emotions?

9 Your boss has a legal right to your social media accounts…yes, really!

Have you ever accessed your Facebook account at work? If so, you’re putting more than your productivity on the line. Once you access a social media account at work, your employee has “instant access” to your profiles. Not convinced?  A recent study found that more than 70 percent of businesses have access to employees’ use of social media.

Maybe you think you’re exempt because you’ve set your Facebook profile to private. Wrong. If you’ve agreed to link your mobile phone to your profile, the default setting for a phone number search is “Everyone” – meaning your bosses can find your profile simply by typing in your cell phone number.

What does that mean for you? Basically, Facebook can get you fired, as one Swiss woman discovered. She made the mistake of accessing Facebook on her phone while taking a sick day from work. She thinks her work invented a fake Facebook profile to spy on its employees: she Facebook-friended a “co-worker” she didn’t know in October, and the “friend” disappeared shortly after the woman was fired. This story should make you think twice about accepting random Facebook requests.

10 Your super advanced password isn’t as foolproof as you think.

As sophisticated as your password may be, your Facebook profile isn’t as private as you think. In an interview, an anonymous Facebook employee admitted that a “Master Password” used to exist. With it, Facebook employees could log into any profile…and some even abused the privilege. One man was allegedly fired for changing a person’s religious views and other data.

While the password no longer exists, Facebook employees can still log in as any user as long as they type in a logical reason for doing so. While growing up, you probably heard the advice, “Never post anything on the Internet that you don’t want everyone to see.” Well, when it comes to Facebook, you shouldn’t even post anything on a private profile you don’t  want Facebook employees to possibly peek at! 

11 Facebook is the perfect place for “nice guys” to turn into stalkers.

Now, we’ve all heard of Facebook stalking. Have a new roommate? Going on a blind date? Facebook to the rescue!

However, there have been several instances when Facebook enables seriously dangerous stalking in real life. Last year, a man sexually assaulted a woman who he was Facebook friends with after seeing her post a picture of what she was wearing and reading a post about her plans to go to a bar.

Female workers have also reported that Facebook makes it easier for creepy customers to find them online. One Hot Topic customer used a mutual friend to get personal information on a cute employee, who he then Facebook messaged. Cue plenty of creepy “nice guy” messages, with one of the most memorable being: “If you were a fictional character, you would be Ramona Flowers.”

Apparently the line between Facebook friends and freaks is a little blurry these days.

Maybe you’re a self-proclaimed Facebook addict. Maybe you rarely look at social media sites. Or maybe you never even created a Facebook account…partly because of these privacy issues.

Whatever your views toward Facebook, one thing is clear: Facebook has become an integral part of modern life, and, as with most other parts of society, it isn’t without its issues. So be educated, be open minded (though some of these conspiracy theories might even stretch those boundaries) and, most of all, be careful of what you click on Facebook…or off it.

Edited by Frida Gurewitz

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