Tyler Mears is convinced Facebook is spying on her after two adverts popped up for random products she’d just been chatting about.
The journalist had been talking about some very unusual things – and the next day adverts appeared on her timeline.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has denied the social network uses your phone’s microphone to listen to your conversations and target you with ads, but despite this the urban myth persists.
But how did this happen? Is what they say – that Facebook is listening in on us 24/7 – true – or is there a less sinister explanation?
Tyler, who works for Wales Online , tells her story here –
For years now, there’s been an “urban myth” that Facebook is using your phone’s microphone to listen to your conversations and target you with ads.
The theory is that you chat about something with a friend – a broken washing machine or where you want to go on holiday – and then come across an ad for that very thing or place.
Despite struggling to contain the conspiracy, Facebook has repeatedly denied it.
Mark Zuckerberg has even spoken about it himself, calling it a “conspiracy theory”.
And the Facebook boss denied it again this week when he was questioned in front of US politicians at Congress, where he was quizzed about how the company uses data.
“Yes or no, does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about users?” asked Senator Gary Peters.
“No,” Zuckerberg said.
He went on to elaborate that Facebook does have access to audio when people record videos on their devices for Facebook, but otherwise it doesn’t access your microphone.
However, the rumour isn’t going away, with more and more people claiming it’s happening to them.
And I experienced it myself recently – twice. I talked about something with somebody and later got adverts for those two things.
At first, I thought I was just being paranoid. But the products are so utterly obscure that I’m struggling to explain how I could possibly have got those ads other than through the method Facebook categorically denies using.
How it all started
It all started when I needed to pee.
Here’s a bit of context. My partner and I, having recently bought a campervan, were talking about female urination devices and how useful they would be for the van.
You know those portable funnel-looking things that women can use to pee on the move? It was completely random and, to be honest, we had a right old giggle about the whole idea.
And that was it. Nothing but a fleeting conversation and soon after I forgot all about it.
That is, until the next day, when I was scrolling through Facebook and noticed an ad from the e-commerce company Wish pop up on my timeline.
It was advertising female urinating devices for £1.
Then things got weirder.
Over the weekend, one of the colleagues I had told about this had jokingly recounted my experience to one of the other mothers at her son’s rugby game.
Like me, they both thought nothing more of it. Until the mother was also targeted with the same ad for female urination devices the following day.
Again, she claims that she hadn’t researched the product in any way, apart from talking to my colleague about it at the game.
I just couldn’t see what the explanation could be.
Apart from talking about it, I had not researched this product at all. So I hadn’t Googled it, or typed it into Facebook.
Surely, this was such a random item that this ad couldn’t be just a pure coincidence?
I decided to tell my work colleagues about it. And, naturally, most of them laughed and shrugged it off. I was suddenly becoming the crazy, conspiracy theorist Zuckerberg joked about.
Then it happened again.
A few days later and things really started to freak me out.
In work, I had been sent a police video of a man attempting to stab an officer during an arrest. It was a really shocking video. It was sent via email from a Welsh police force and linked to the video on their YouTube channel.
Later that day, while at home, I showed a copy of the YouTube video to my partner.
We talked about how lucky the officer was that he was wearing a stab-proof vest, or he might have been seriously injured.
Like before, I thought nothing more of it and the night carried on as normal.