According to a recent report by the Independent, hundreds of smartphone apps are spying on you by using your microphones.
It’s everyone’s worst nightmare. A complete invasion of your privacy. An intrusion. And now it’s reality. Beware, Big Brother is listening (don’t think we can all fit in the Diary Room though).
Yes, it has recently been revealed by the Independent that hundreds of smartphone apps use software to listen to your surroundings on a day-to-day basis.
How Are We Being Recorded?
The ‘listening’ technology sounds pretty sophisticated and can listen to audio, even when that audio is muffled inside of your pocket.
If your apps are running in the background, they could be tracking (and recording) everything that happens around you. Since we are rarely without our trusty devices, this could be terrifying news for most of us.
The software in question is called ‘Alphonso’ and is used to listen to audio when you’re watching TV and to make assumptions about your viewing habits. This information is collected and banked, in the most literal sense of the word. These apps then sell on your information to advertisers.
So, Who’s Involved?
While reports suggest that hundreds of apps use this spying software, it’s thought that thousands more have it and are not yet utilising it. More than 250 apps using the software are available to download via the Google Play store, with fewer available on iTunes.
Alphonso hasn’t yet released a list of the apps that are currently using its technology. However, the report claims that games including Pool 3D, Beer Pong: Trickshot, Real Bowling Strike 10 Pin and Honey Quest brandish it.
This extract for Pool 3D’s app description talks in detail about how the software works:
“With your permission provided at the time of downloading the app, the ACR software receives short duration audio samples from the microphone on your device. Access to the microphone is allowed only with your consent, and the audio samples do not leave your device but are instead hashed into digital ‘audio signatures’.”
“The audio signatures are compared to commercial content that is playing on your television, including content from set-top-boxes, media players, gaming consoles, broadcast, or another video source (e.g., TV shows, streaming programs, advertisements, etc.),” it continues.
“If a match is found, Alphonso may use that information to deliver more relevant ads to your mobile device. The ACR software matches only against known, commercial audio content and does not recognize or understand human conversations or other sounds.”
So, it looks like it’s one of those things covered off in the T&C. However, not all is lost fans.
How Do You Opt-Out?
Chilling, right? So, how can you protect yourself? Well, when you download apps to begin with, pay attention to the features you grant access to. Avoid giving any app access to your microphone unless its an audio recording/phoning app.
By doing this, you should stop apps from giving your information to third-parties or using your microphone to listen in on you.