Phones do not listen to your conversations (unless you allow it to, or install some malware or something). There is a specialized chip that ONLY listens for a wake-up word. It doesn’t even have the capability to listen to more.
However, what is more likely the case is that you have enabled Facebook permissions to know your location. As such, it likely knows you were at your optometrist based on your location information!
The fact that it was specifically a dry eye solution is more likely a coincidence (because if the ad had been for, say, eye glasses instead, you would have ALSO been freaked out for the same reason, since you likely discussed something about eye glasses, etc).
Even if you don’t grant location information, if you connected to, for example, the local wifi, then Facebook (or Google, etc) could take crowd-sourced information to know that with the IP address you were on, it means you were at an optometrist.
Again…this isn’t because it is listening. BUT, what happens is if you are in the vicinity of someone else when they do a SEARCH on something, you might end up, matching the location at the same time, matched up with the topic being discussed because people tend to do searches on things discussed even if you aren’t yourself conducting the search.
For example, you are with a group of friends discussing topic X. Well, one of your friends does some search on topic X without you knowing it. Now, software places you and your friends together, and kind of assumes you might have similar interests, etc.
It is still scary stuff. But it isn’t related to the phones actually listening. They aren’t.
Once I was in the library with my kid. We are looking at biographies. She is a Girl Scout. I say, “here, look at this book about Juliette Gordon Low. We should check this out.”
An hour later, I’m at home on my laptop and I get a Target ad for that freaking book.
It was written years and years ago. I didn’t type anything about Juliette Gordon Low into my phone and we weren’t near anyone else. She wasn’t old enough for a phone at the time.
But the exact book we checked out suddenly comes up in a Target ad. You couldn’t buy that book at Target if you tried.
The phone is listening.
My husband is vegan and we start talking about sloppy joes and all of a sudden he’s getting Manwich ads. No way was someone near us searching for Manwich and it pinged our phone. Why would we search for Manwich or sloppy joes? We were just talking about it.
I say something about Panera to my kid and all of a sudden she’s getting ads for it.
I also listened to the whole episode of Reply All where they talked about this. Probably super tech support.
But anyway, would LOVE to know if anyone gets an ad on Facebook for graphic line drawings of the Disney monorail on tshirts because I’d like to buy one.
I doubt they used the word Disney in the ad because then there would be copyright and licensing issues. Same with monorail. So I’m trying to figure out what I need to talk to my phone about so that those ads will come up again. With Facebook you can choose certain groups to target your ads to and it’s probably people who like follow Disney groups.
You can find sites claiming it is. But again the only way the phone is allowed to listen to you is if you have it set to respond to things like “hey Siri” or “okay Google”…but in those cases, the phone has a special chip that can ONLY listen for those keywords, otherwise the processing power would drain your phone’s battery in a jiffy. Those special chips can be set to listen for a very specific activation phrase and that’s it. It is incapable of doing more. INCAPABLE, not just programmed not to. So those sites are misconstruing a little bit of truth and extrapolating it to a lie…or at least ignorance.
The other exception could be if you installed some kind of malware on your phone and gave it permissions to listen. But you would see your phone battery dropping fast as well as a lot of internet data usage in such a scenario. Perhaps make sure you don’t have anything installed on your phone (such as free games, etc) that you downloaded…and then check the permissions granted to those apps and make sure none have permissions to use your microphone.
I can assure you without question that apart from the above, your phone isn’t listening to you.
On Android, you would go to Settings->Apps and then go through any apps you might be suspicious of. If you tap the app from there, it will give a list of options, including “Permissions”. Look for any Permissions that seem unusual for that particular app. My Phone app, for example, has “Call logs, Camera, Contacts, Microphone, …” This makes sense, because a phone needs to access the microphone. If there is any app that has access to your microphone and you see no need for it to, you can disable the permission for that directly…or just choose to uninstall the app if you’d rather.
For Apple, I’m sure there is a similar method…but I don’t know what it is off hand since I’m an Android user.
ETA: BTW, you can change the settings so that it only allows permissions to use that feature when you explicitly running the app, ask every time, or just disable entirely.
Thanks. I found a setting for the Mic under Privacy.
Google, Instagram, and Messenger were on.
There is something that says “App Clips” and when you click on that it says, App clips that have requested access to the microphone will appear here.
I’ll go look through individual apps and check settings as nothing is there.