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Are Facebook and Instagram listening to you? Jeff Rossen investigates tech myths

TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen takes a look at three tech myths to see what's real, what's not and how to protect your privacy.
/ Source: TODAY

You're looking to buy some new sunglasses when all of a sudden an advertisement for sunglasses pops up in your Instagram or Facebook feed.

It's one of those eerie coincidences that make you wonder if Facebook or Instagram are listening to you through your phone or laptop.

TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen teamed with cyber security expert Jim Stickley on TODAY Tuesday to see if that's true, and take a look at three tech myths to find out what's real, what's not, and what kind of changes you can make to better protect your privacy.

Get Jeff Rossen's new book "Rossen to the Rescue" here

Myth No. 1: Facebook and Instagram are listening to you through your phone or computer.

Answer: No. It just looks like a targeted ad because of all the information those apps gather about your habits.

"Facebook and Instagram, they're able to build a profile on you based on what you do, so every time you click 'like,' every time you click on an ad, the apps you install, even the things not directly related to Facebook, still have partnerships oftentime with Facebook,'' Stickley said.

The way to find out what Facebook knows about you is to go into your account, click on "Settings," and then click on "Ads." That will reveal a list of your interests and everything the company knows about you.

The microphone setting, which apps like Facebook and Instagram have because you need them to make videos to post them on the app, also can be shut off by going into "Settings" in the app.

Myth No. 2: Stores are tracking your location through apps on your phone.

Answer: Yes. It's called "geo-fencing." Retailers can map your location using GPS and send you discounts or coupons when you're in the vicinity of their store.

"When we install apps, we just hit agree, agree, agree,'' Stickley said. "Nobody's really paying attention, and that's giving apps permission to a lot of things, including, for example, your location."

Rossen Reports
TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen teamed with cyber security expert Jim Stickley.TODAY

In order to manage what location information you are providing to certain apps, go to "Settings" on your phone, then "Privacy," and then "Location Services." Find the app of whatever retailer you're concerned with and click on "Never" under "Allow Location Access" and that prevents the app from tracking you. You can also select “while using the app” to only let the app track you while you’re actively using it.

Myth No. 3: Your smart TV is tracking everything you watch.

Answer: Yes. Stickley says when you installed your smart television, you most likely enabled it to track everything you're watching.

Stickley says you can disable the tracking, however, which can often be found under "Settings" and “Privacy” on smart TVs. However, look closely at the terms. Stickley says you may lose some or all of the smart TV capabilities, if you disable the tracking. But every TV is different. Check your TV’s settings for more information.

To suggest a topic for an upcoming investigation, visit the Rossen Reports Facebook page.