Privacy is a growing issue when it comes to the technology we incorporate into our lives. A simple Google search of ‘smart speakers listening’ will yield multiple articles discussing how some recordings from a user’s smartphone or smart speaker were listened to. This results from an increased demand to get as much information on users as possible to create better, more targeted advertisements.

Is Your Phone Listening To You?

Your smartphone is the perfect vehicle to monitor your activities. It has cameras, motion sensors, and microphones. All of which gives your device incredible features, like fall detection or professional video creating capabilities. In addition, these features are also perfect for advertisers.

In 2018 Sam Nichols, a reporter for VICE, wanted to test whether or not his phone actually listens. He repeated a few phrases twice a day for five days in a row. As he conducted his test, he kept an eye on his Facebook feed and found that advertisements similar to his phrases were popping up. Read the full story here.

As a result, several researchers began looking at how surveillance affected social media advertisements. Some studies were able to find a correlation but not all. A consistent finding from these investigations was the user agreement. In order to use an app or a company’s services, a user must agree to the company’s terms and conditions. These agreements are very wordy and often have a section that will allow recorded audio to be used for targeted advertising. As a result, most of us just check the box to continue the setup.

Stop Your Voice Assistant From Listening

The good news is there are steps you can take to help limit the amount of data your phone collects through the microphone. Firstly, disable the ‘Hey Siri’ or ‘Okay Google’ feature. These features allow your smart assistants to always have access to your microphones.

  • ‘Hey Siri’ for iOS devices: Settings > Siri & Search > Toggle ‘Hey Siri’ off
  • ‘Okay Google’ on Android devices: Say ‘Okay Google’ or press and hold the home button > select the file drawer icon > three-dot menu > Settings > Devices > Phone > Toggle Google Assistant off

Disable Apps From Using The Microphone

Also, all of the apps that have access to your microphone need it. However, if you set the app already, the settings are adjustable in the settings.

  • iPhone Users: Settings > Privacy > Microphone
  • Android Users: Settings > Applications > Application Manager (scroll through the installed apps and select them to see what they have access too)

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