You are having a coffee with a close friend and bring up something about travel bag.
Then BAM all of a sudden there are ads on your phone for that travel bag. Is your phone is listening to you all the time?
Our smartphones are with us at all times, but are companies and governments using them to spy on us?
You may be suspicious for a good reason. A New York Times piece uncovered that thousands of apps, including gaming apps for kids are equipped with the software Alfonso.
Alfonso uses your smartphone microphone to listen to the ads that you are watching on TV.
It uses audio signals to collect TV viewing data in order for advertisers to personally promote things to you online.
Alfonso “claims” to not record human speech. Facebook has created a device called Pixel, which is designed as a way to continue tracking you online even after you’ve left a website.
By dropping a small piece of data called a cookie, your device will now remember information, like how long you linger on a certain item, and whether you added anything to your shopping cart, but didn’t purchase it.
Millions of websites use Facebook Pixel, which is why the bag you didn’t end up buying follows you around Facebook forever.
But sites like Facebook even follow you offline and have been known to purchase information and create a database of over 52,000 different attributes about you, for example, Facebook buys data from supermarket loyalty programs.
So if you have a points card with a grocery store Facebook may be paying to understand your purchasing patterns Potentially learning about what you eat or even what type of toothpaste you use.
So, your phone can listen to you, but it can also follow you as well. Every time you receive a text or use data to load an app, companies can log and retain your location based on the cell tower and cellular antenna you connect it to.
The precision of location has increased over time and get paint a detailed picture of where you go. So, your phone may start sending you ads for travel bags because you were just physically in or near a bag shop.
And did you read the fine print? Probably not.
74% skipped reading the agreement all together, and those who did read it didn’t do a great job.
98% percent of participants missed the gotcha clauses, which included sharing all your data with the NSA, your employer, and agreeing to provide your firstborn child as payment.
And what about the rise of smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Alexa? Which are designed to listen to you at all times.
Though, they are supposed to only record your voice when giving prompts like “Ok, Google” Recently a couple found that Amazon’s Alexa recorded a private conversation and then randomly sent it to a friend.
These are deemed unfortunate glitches. But what if someone gained access to them as Wi-Fi networks and mobile internet devices are easier to hack than you might think?
Your typical wireless internet information is kept confidential by being converted from a readable state to nonsense at the access point and then converted back to a readable state when you use the correct Wi-Fi password from your computer.
When Internet moved from physically wired networks to wireless technology it became easier to hack and less secure because the encryption schemes are relatively simple.
For example, Your webcam can be hacked by creating a remote access tool which is the digital equivalent of someone adding an unlocked window to your home without you even noticing.
Long story short, your phone is capable of listening to you, following you, and even watching you.