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Wozniak was questioned at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C, by TMZ, who asked whether our devices were listening to private conversations to find out more information about us. The theory that this happens to serve people targeted ads has been around for years, and Mark Zuckerberg was forced to assure Congress in 2018 that it doesn’t happen.
The Woz confessed that the situation was one he was worried about, but doesn’t think it’s something we can stop. “But, everything about you... I mean, they can measure your heartbeat with lasers now, they can listen to you with a lot of devices. Who knows if my cellphone’s listening right now. Alexa has already been in the news a lot,” he said.
“So I worry because you’re having conversations that you think are private [...] You’re saying words that really shouldn’t be listened to, because you don’t expect it. But there’s almost no way to stop it.”
Wozniak’s opinion of the social network shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. At the height of the Cambridge Analytica scandal last year, he was one of the many people to join the #deleteFacebook movement, publicly announcing that he was quitting the platform over privacy concerns.
As he did back then, Wozniak reiterated his solution to the problem: let people pay for increased privacy. “People think they have a level of privacy they don’t. Why don’t they give me a choice? Let me pay a certain amount, and you’ll keep my data more secure and private then everybody else handing it to advertisers.” It’s an option Sheryl Sandberg has talked about in the past. The Facebook COO said users would need to pay to avoid having their data used for advertising.
Just how many users would be willing to pay Facebook to keep their data private remains to be seen; most people who feel that strongly about the subject are unlikely to ever use the platform.
One group that agrees with Wozniak are teens and young adults, who are abandoning the social network in droves in favor of YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram.