If the song or show is recognised by the app, users can publish the information on their profile or to selected friends.
The service hopes to take advantage of the “second screen” trend, which sees fans of TV shows in particular sharing their experiences on social networks.
However, some users have privacy concerns.
The feature, which will be available in a few weeks’ time, uses the microphones inside users’ smartphones to detect nearby music or TV shows.
As the user begins writing a status update, a small animated icon will appear at the top of the app.
If the app detects the appropriate audio signals and finds a match from its database, the user can then share what he or she is watching or listening to.
Facebook says the feature can be turned off at any time, the audio recording is not stored anywhere and the device cannot identify background noise or conversations.
“If you share music, your friends can see a 30-second preview of the song. For TV shows, the story in News Feed will highlight the specific season and episode you’re watching,” Facebook said in a statement.
The company hopes this new method of sharing user listening and watching habits will take advantage of the five billion status updates related to TV and music experiences that the social networking giant sees on a yearly basis.
However, automating part of the sharing process has left some users suspicious, with Nicole Simon commenting on TechCrunch that: “While the idea is nice and technology really interesting, I have no interest in Facebook ‘observing’ my audio and surrounding. Yes, it starts currently as opt-in, and only on occasion, but there is no trust from my side for even that.”
Advertising and Shazam
The BBC understands that this new feature was not specifically designed to enhance Facebook’s advertising. However, the company could push an advert to a user’s phone based on their tracked listening habits.
This is in keeping with Facebook’s current approach to advertising, which uses publicly provided information on users’ profiles to push advertisements that are more relevant to each individual user.
The basic idea behind Facebook’s feature is not a new one – since 2002 Shazam, which has recently seen a $3m investment from Sony Music Entertainment, has been providing a similar audio recognition service, with its website describing itself as “a mobile app that recognises music and TV around you”.
Users of Shazam – all 450 million of them – can not only share their listening habits with other users of the app, but they can also push their updates to Facebook and Twitter.
The app also provides artist biographies, lyrics, videos, recommended tracks and concert tickets.
Facebook’s much larger user base could pose a future threat to the comparatively smaller company.