Instagram boss Adam Mosseri says app doesn't listen to conversations

The head of Instagram has rejected claims that the social media application listens to users' conversations to uncover their interests and target advertisements towards them.

On Tuesday, an interview between Adam Mosseri and CBS This Morning host Gayle King aired, with King asking the Instagram boss if Instagram listens to its users.

"Can you help me understand how I can be having a private conversation with someone about something I'm interested in seeing or buying, and an advertisement for that will pop up on my Instagram feed," King said.

"I haven't searched for it. I haven't talked to anybody about it. I swear, I think you guys are listening. I know you're gonna say you're not."

Mosseri, who took over the role in October 2018, said he is frequently asked that question.

"I got it the other day cause someone said 'I was talking to my friend and I didn't even have my phone near me, and then I got the ad," he said. 

He explained there are "two ways that can happen" - but neither involve listening to users' conversations.

"One is dumb luck, which can happen. The second is you might be talking about something because it's top of mind because you've been interacting with that type of content more recently," he told King.

"But we don't look at your messages, we don't listen in on your microphone."

Mosseri admitted that would be "super problematic", but it is a claim frequently made against Instagram and its parent company Facebook.

In 2016, Facebook denied using phones' microphones for adverts or to tailor what the user sees on their news feed. 

"Some recent articles have suggested that we must be listening to people's conversations in order to show them relevant ads. This is not true," a statement said.

"We show ads based on people's interests and other profile information – not what you're talking out loud about."