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With Facebook telling the BBC that it blocks brands from advertising based on microphone data, and Google claiming “categorically” that it does not use any “utterances” from when the OK Google hotword So what is going on? Are Google and Facebook using voice recognition software against us to make a profit? Have you had the uncanny feeling that what you just talked about has appeared as an ad on your phone? Christian Cawley is Make Use Of's security and Linux editor, with extensive experience in IT desktop and software support.
Christian is a regular contributor to print publications such as Linux User & Developer, as well as a number of specials: Raspberry Pi for Beginners, Expert Android, The i Pad Book Vol 6, Word Press…
Instead, it has been designed to demonstrate how your privacy might be breached, and how what you say could be used by search engines and advertising networks to make adverts that are even more targeted.
Let’s take a look at the evidence, and try to work out whether surveillance-driven advertising is really taking place, or if it is really nothing more than good, old-fashioned, coincidence.
Google Now on Android offers precious little in the way of options that might disable the microphone, other than abandoning the launcher altogether.
Further stories on Reddit expand further, such as this from hawk8177:i was talking to a friend about a med he takes, next day im getting ads about that med…Security researchers have developed an app that spies on the conversations of those around the phones it is installed on.But the purpose of the app isn’t to breach your privacy.To prove that other apps could be stealing data captured through your smartphone’s microphone, cybersecurity expert Ken Munro developed – with the help of David Lodge from Pen Test Partners – an app that would record what was being said in the vicinity of a phone, and display it on a PC monitor.“All we did was use the existing functionality of Google Android – we chose it because it was a little easier for us to develop in.” “We gave ourselves permission to use the microphone on the phone, set up a listening server on the internet, and everything that microphone heard on that phone, wherever it was in the world, came to us and we could then have sent back customized ads.”David Lodge went on to explain that much of the code was already available either within the OS or in the public domain, and it seems the experiment was achieved with minimal battery drain on the device.Google and Facebook have both denied that their apps can take advantage of smartphone microphones to gather information in this way.
A few days later, I’d forgotten about this, until I noticed that after leaving my phone at my mum’s house, a bunch of new shows appeared in Google Now, along with the legend “Because of your interest in this show”.