Facebook's latest mobile app feature uses your device's microphone to listen in on songs, TV, and movies. Here's what you need to know before you opt in.

Kristin Burnham, Senior Editor, InformationWeek.com

May 22, 2014

3 Min Read

Facebook unveiled a new mobile app feature that uses your device's microphone to identify songs, television shows, and movies so you can quickly share with friends what you're listening to or watching.

The audio-recognition capability, which Facebook will roll out in the coming weeks, is opt-in and available only for Android and iOS users in the United States. If you turn it on, you'll see an audio icon moving on the screen when you compose a status update. If Facebook finds a match to what you're watching or listening to, you can add the song, TV show, or movie to your post.

According to Selekman, the audio feature identifies only TV and music -- it cannot discern background noise or conversation. It does not save or store any sound, he said, and you can turn it off whenever you want by tapping the sound bar icon so it turns gray.

[Understand what information Facebook stores. Read Facebook Friend Tracking: 3 Facts.]

If you share music, your friends can preview a 30-second clip of the song by clicking your post. If you share that you're watching a TV show, Facebook will specify the season and episode you're watching to avoid spoilers, said Facebook product manager Aryeh Selekman, in a blog post.

Facebook's latest feature has drawn comparisons to other popular audio-tagging apps like Shazam and Soundhound. While they share similarities, Facebook's use case is quite different: Shazam and Soundhound are designed to identify what's playing, while Facebook's audio-tagging feature is designed to make it easier to share what you're listening to and watching.

Last year, Facebook added "feelings and activities" options to the status update box. Users can browse a variety of emotions to add to their status -- such as excited, stressed, or angry -- or choose an activity, such as playing basketball, traveling to San Francisco, or drinking coffee. Facebook's new audio recognition builds on this feature, simplifying the steps to add details about songs, TV, or movies.

Facebook's Selekman said feelings and activity updates have been particularly popular among users. "In the last year, people shared more than 5 billion status updates that included these kinds of feelings and activities, sparking conversations with friends in a more visual way," he said.

Facebook's new audio-recognition capability is the latest addition to its mobile app that keeps a closer eye -- or ear -- on your activity. Last month, Facebook unveiled Nearby Friends, which alerts your friends when you're in close proximity.

While Facebook pitches its latest additions to its mobile app as shortcuts to sharing and meeting up with friends in person, Facebook ultimately benefits: more data about users' entertainment habits, which translates into better-targeted advertising.

Facebook's Selekman told TechCrunch that while advertisers cannot yet target ads using data from the audio-recognition feature, it will likely happen: "It's definitely something we've thought about and will potentially do in the future," he said.

What do Uber, Bank of America, and Walgreens have to do with your mobile app strategy? Find out in the new Maximizing Mobility issue of InformationWeek Tech Digest.

About the Author(s)

Kristin Burnham

Senior Editor, InformationWeek.com

Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior writer. Kristin's writing has earned an ASBPE Gold Award in 2010 for her Facebook coverage and a Min Editorial and Design Award in 2011 for "Single Online Article." She is a graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

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