Have you noticed after having a private conversation with a friend, you begin to receive phone ads for what you were discussing about? What about on your social media, seeing an ad for something you just Googled? It could be that your mobile device is listening in on your conversations through your phone’s microphone.
Dr. Peter Hannay and His Phone Listening Experiment
In 2018, Dr. Peter Hannay from Asterisk Information Security and researcher at Cowan University, conducted an experiment to determine if the Facebook app was listening to him throughout the day.
He was able to prove that Facebook was using listening through the microphone, but it was all legal through user agreement that each person must agree to. Sam Nichols a reporter for Vice performed the same experiment himself. For five days straight and two times a day, he would speak about events such as going back to school or looking for cheap clothing.
He then carefully monitored his social media for sponsored posts or other target ads. He began to notice that the changes on his social media exploded way faster than anticipated. This sparked the idea for other scientific studies to test the secret listening ability of smartphones.
Your smartphone is similar to new devices such as voice-activated speakers like Amazon Echo or Google Home. It will listen for wake words such as “Hey Siri” or “Okay Google” all of the time. These types of awake words allow your smartphone or device to start recording or listen to users. However, without specific triggers, the recordings are not sent anywhere or that is what they say.
How are these recordings that are “not sent anywhere” getting through to my social media? If the recording is not being sent anywhere then there should be no problem? In some cases, social media apps still have access to that data or recording. We are not sure what can trigger these apps to access that data.There could be any amount of wake words to trigger these apps.
Is There A Way To Prevent My Phone From Listening To Me?
There are many ways to prevent this from happening to you, and to protect your private conversations from unwanted listening technology.
- Use Google setting to prevent your data from being collected. Click to learn more.
- Learn how to delete those unwanted recordings that can be stored on your devices without you knowing.
- Disable your microphone on specific apps you use.
- Turn off your smart devices such as Echo or Google Home.
- Turn off your phone Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use.
- Only use secure Wi-Fi connections.
- Read an app’s terms and conditions before agreeing to it.
These companies and apps who are listening to their customers aren’t doing so just to be snoopy. They are likely collecting their customers’ data for marketing purposes, to improve their product, and/or to sell to other companies.
This voice-tracking technology is a little scary from a customer perspective, but from a marketing perspective, it is as good as gold. It is an extremely useful targeting ad tool, and that is why you are beginning to see all these apps and companies starting to use it.
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