Is Your Phone Listening to You?

Matthews NC- Have you ever stopped scrolling through Instagram just to see an ad for the chip brand you just told your friend you were craving? Is that coincidence or is there something behind your screen listening? 

While there is no clear answer to whether or not your smartphone is listening to you, there are many theories circling around the internet. With 657 million results on Google to the search “Is your phone listening to you?” there is no denying that people are skeptical of their privacy in regards to smartphones. But is this paranoia justified? 

Ever since the first smartphone debuted in 1992, the technology development in phones has greatly increased the easy access to personal, even private, information of its users. 

Northeastern University conducted a study comparing the 17,000 most popular apps on Android and various apps were reported by Gizmodo to be “recording the phone’s screen and sending that information out to third parties (Forbes).” This is not evidence in this research for active listening, but there might be information transmission between apps and third party sources taking place on your own device. 

Other surveys and tests that check if your phone is listening to you cite that the tools “Hey, Siri ” and “OK, Google ” consume the most data during studies, leading researchers to believe that such tools are always listening and working, even when they are not in use. The easiest thing to do to protect yourself is to disable these functions in your settings menu. 

Even if your phone is not directly listening, there are other ways that your phone can so easily target the effective ads that pop up on your Instagram feed. From location services to social media, and practically anything that uses your personal information provides companies with information to best choose the ads for you. 

The vice president of Engineering at Wandera comments that “Everything that makes your phone useful, like knowing where you are, taking photos, enabling online shopping and banking — these are exactly where the potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities are.”

There is no clear answer to the question “Is your phone listening to you?” While so much information about the security of phones is unknown, take time to think about simple ways that you can protect yourself. And be careful what you wish for because who knows what triggered ads will pop up next.

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