Paranoia or Truth that your Smart Phone is Listening?

There is a bit of a conspiracy doing the rounds about our mobile phones and what information they can extract from you. Is this paranoia or is there some truth in the idea that your phone is always listening?

Phones are smart little buggers – I guess that’s why they call them smartphones. Smart! Built with key tech functions like Siri, microphone, high resolution cameras and GPS locators, they enable us to use voice search, locate where we are and visually capture the things we see. But are these functions still working, even when they are not in use?It’s entirely possible to use a device such as a television, computer monitor, tablet or mobile as a transmitter, even when not in use. But is that actually happening?

Your Microphone is Always On

I’m reading more and more accounts of people being served ads for topics they have never searched for or had any digital engagement with, but rather had been discussing, suggesting that the microphone is still tracking conversations, even when not in use. Yes, smartphones work in the same way as virtual assistants, waiting for keywords to start recording, but according to Dr. Hannay, a security consultant for cyber security firm Asterisk, your microphone is always listening for these keywords and potentially sending other keyword driven data to your apps. What and how we don’t know, because it uses encryption.

It’s no secret that our browsing history, the places we visit and the content we post play a huge part in sites like Facebook profiling us. AI and machine learning profile us on a day-to-day basis, largely to help tailor targeted adverts that are displayed to us. Essentially, I don’t have a problem with experiencing more relevance in the marketing material I am shown. But what happens to my data? Assuming a profile of me exists elsewhere than my social media profiles, where is this being stored? Who has access to it and what else could it be used for?

Tighter Data Controls

GDPR regulations were enforced last year and in good time. With data scandals surrounding Facebook and Google Plus, something had to be done to control the use of content. If our data is locked down and secured then so be it, but the threat of hacking and cyber terrorism is a very real one, and well, not to want to become paranoid about it, but it does make you think somewhat. It also gives some context to why Facebook is experiencing a downward trend.

I guess the overriding question I was left with when researching this topic was, ‘would you willingly queue up to get a bug and tracking device implanted on your body’? I bet the answer would be no. Yet we are seemingly fine with allowing our phones to do just that. Food for thought.

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