Very often at presentations, attendees will recall incidents where they believe content is appearing on their Facebook page, or in Advertisements, very soon after they had spoken about that subject. Was it a coincidence, or perhaps it is because your phone is listening to every word that you say?
Dr Peter Henway, a senior security consultant for cybersecurity firm Asterisk, told Vice: ‘From time to time, snippets of audio do go back to [apps like Facebook’s] servers, but there’s no official understanding what the triggers for that are. Whether it’s timing, or location-based or usage of certain functions, [apps] are certainly pulling those microphone permissions and using those periodically. All the internals of the applications send this data in encrypted form, so it’s very difficult to define the exact trigger.’
This may come as no surprise to many, as generally the average digital device user will be aware that ambient listening is required by a device to activate the built in AI features such as Siri, which is activated by saying ‘Hi Siri’ or ‘Ok Google’, on Android devices. This form of Personal Information gathering is not illegal, as it will have been agreed to in the terms and conditions, most people never read, before they installed the App.
While its existence and use is widely denied by large corporations, this information is being harvested for the purpose of being sold on to third parties, who can then personalise advertisements based on several factors, location, browsing history, etc, in an attempt to target you with products you might be interested in. The term ‘Free’, really needs to be considered when installing any App. If your device is monitoring you, harvesting personal information about you, which can then be sold on to a third party, was there really no cost to the App you just installed.