Researchers Find Out If Your Phone Might Actually Be Listening To You
By Thanussha Priyah, 06 Sep 2019
We have all experienced this before. One moment you mention a product, and the next moment an advertisement for the exact item pops up from nowhere on social media. This “coincidence” riddles many smartphone owners into thinking that their devices might be secretly listening to them.
This theory has gathered people from all over the world to produce videos that experiment the likelihood of phones listening in to conversations. The results have been wavering.
How confident are you that your phone is secretly listening to you and catering advertisements towards you— Nick Ghanbarian (@nickbayside) September 21, 2017
it’s creepy how you talk about something then somehow the ads that popped out in your instastory is exactly related to what you just talk about, kinda feel like our phones are secretly listening to our conversations— Angelique Tek (@AngeliqueTek) August 30, 2019
I think my phone is secretly listening in. I’ve never searched for vodka, written ‘vodka’ in any posts. I’ve only ordered ‘vodka+tonic’ in bars. Now, IG is serving Goose Vodka ads to me.— 𝚓𝚎𝚏𝚏𝙱𝚎𝚛𝚌 (@jxffb) August 8, 2018
At this point, I'm content with the fact that my phone is listening to me 24/7. But what really bothers me is it doesn't have the decency to say "bless you" after I sneeze. Im just gonna get Kleenex ads on facebook for two days— John Ferguson (@JohnFergy) September 3, 2019
Leading mobile security specialist Wandera set out to investigate the belief using Apple iPhones and Samsung phones in order to launch a fair test between iOS and Android devices.
Two of the phones, an iPhone and Android, were left in an “audio room” with sounds of cat and dog adverts playing repeatedly. A pair of identical handsets were left in a “silent room,” which speaks for itself, a room without any sound. This went on for 30 minutes.
The researchers kept the following applications open, granting full permission to them: Facebook, Instagram, Chrome, Snapchat, YouTube, and Amazon.
After which, they looked out for ads related to pet food on the the aforementioned platforms. They also monitored the battery and data usage on the phones during this experiment, which was repeated for three days simultaneously.
The verdict: No significant increase in data or battery usage was shown, and no advertisements relating to cat or dog food popped up on these applications as well.
James Mack, Systems Engineer at Wandera, deduced that if our phones were actively listening to us, the results of the applications’ data usage should match the ones of virtual assistants like Siri and Google Assistant as well.
The underwhelming results only leaves smartphone owners wondering what complex ways tech companies might be using to profile users and dish out hyper-targeted ads.
Y'all know how you think your phone is listening to you and that's why you get ads about what you just talked about?— Paul Salmon (@Paul_Salmon) September 1, 2019
It's not. That's the scary thing. Predictive advertising has just gotten so good that our tech knows you'd be talking about that.
tl;dr you basic.
[via BBC News, cover image via DedMityay / Shutterstock.com]
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