Is your phone really listening to you?

Andrea McClary, Junior Ad Editor

It’s happened to us all; you’re sitting have a conversation with a friend from a class and the very next day the same thing you were discussing just happens to show up on your Instagram feed. Most of the time you just brush it off as a coincidence and keep scrolling, but what if your phone is really listening to you?

As it turns out, you are not crazy. Your phone is, in fact, listening to you more than you may think. Technically your devices should be listening and recording for when you use words like “Hey, Siri” with iPhone, or “Hey Google” with Androids. The device must listen for the keywords. It’s called digital ear listening, and it is constantly picking up on what you’re saying.

Now that data doesn’t just get forgotten, it is kept on the device instead of being uploaded to the cloud like most data your phone collects. This information can then be accessed by third party devices on your phone like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. To be clear, third party apps are apps that allow you to sign in by using a password from something like Facebook (or any other login from a different app). This data links up and gathers information to let advertisers target you based on your location, interests and wants.

In early April there was controversy regarding Mark Zuckerberg and the information being shared from Facebook to third parties. That third party was Cambridge Analytical, and that data firm used the improperly obtained data to build voter profiles and then were selling them to political campaigns. Unsurprisingly, this outraged the millions of users across the globe and set people into a frenzy about what was truly safe and private online.

Most companies would deny the fact that they are selling information, which is most likely true, however they do not deny obtaining that information and letting advertisers target certain markets with it. You just need to know what you’re signing up for you when you press the “I agree button.” And, if you want to stop this information from being used by apps, then the answer is simple.

If you want to keep your information private, turning off your phones microphone for certain apps, or all apps if that is what you wish to do, is one of the best ways to guarantee and limit the amount of your information being spread.

It is all centered around privacy settings on your phone and on the apps, so make sure you read through the agreement terms as well as adjust your private settings to ensure you are comfortable with what is being shared.