Facebook has long been accused of tapping into users’ smartphone to deliver targeted advertising but it has always denied the accusation. However, the company has now filed for a patent which details technology which can trigger a smartphone’s microphone when it picks up secret messages hidden in TV advertisements. The technology will signal the devices to start recording when the signal is picked up.

A dive into the patent reveals that Facebook may embed high-pitched audio signals into TV ads which our ears won’t be able to register but smartphone mics would. This would trigger them to record “ambient audio” and send that back to Facebook.

What this essentially does is provide Facebook a recording of your response when a particular ad comes on the TV. If you have no audible response to the ad it will also be evident from the ambient audio recorded. Many are obviously concerned about the privacy implications of this patent but Facebook says that it doesn’t ever intend to use the technology that it wants to patent.

Facebook VP and Deputy General Counsel Allen Lo tells Engadget that Facebook has just filed the patent to “prevent aggression from other companies,” adding that “patents tend to focus on future-looking technology that is often speculative in nature and could be commercialized by other companies.”

To completely drive the point home, Lo says that the technology Facebook wants to patent isn’t in any of its existing products “and never will be.”

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