Your phone probably listening every words you said

Photo by Omid Armin / Unsplash

Sorry at first being some kind of click-bait title but I have not find a proper way to open this post. From the last article I wrote about how DuckDuckGo changed their policy and doing with their algorithm. I promised that I will wrote an article about how phones now days are listening your conversations and turn it into personalized advertisements.

Audio Recognization

First of all we need to talk about this, audio recognization. Remember when you first setup your smart phone, it politely ask if you want to turn on Audio Recognization of the phone for better experience? This method was going to improve your phone to recognize your voice when you using either Ok Google or Hey Siri. Intentions of this function is good and convenience, probably too convenience, it makes your phone constantly listen what you saying and waiting for keywords to trigger the assistance.

The Good and The Bad

This audio monitoring or whatever you decide to call it, it’s mostly done by good purpose. Is to make your phone more reachable for you, help you set your timer or schedule your meeting, or even an event on calendar. More you use them, more you get used to it. This is where the evil plan sneaks in.

I remember after few months after audio assistance can be active by your voice without touching your phone, some websites start pushing out articles about how phone record your conversations and magically some keywords started to pop out as form of advertisements. After few months more people notice this, they decide to change their methods by adding a confirm page, request your agreement to use your audio data. Shortly after, a INSIDER Article reveals the background of this whole operation.

Let’s shoot out most effective advertisement

Surveillance is all about convenience - Bruce Schneier

Umm, I’m not sure about that, if I’m going to let a smartphone listen all my conversation what will be next? You guessed it! Advertisement!

The final form (well, at least for now) is trying to pinpoint the correct audience, make personalize advertisement more efficient and lower the cost. Nothing is better than pushing out an advertisement about catnip towards people who just had a conversation about their cats. But there must be a way to stop this, right?

How to avoid it

Most of the articles online now is suggesting you whether turn off your virtual assistance, using a VPN, or keep your software up to date (huh?) to avoid conversations being upload to cloud. Are you sure you want to actually disable Siri or OK google helping you when your both hands are busy? Moreover this VPN thing, it’s not even an option to avoid these kind of things, companies will still identify you by various ways. However, most the phone now days you can decide to share your audio or not at setup page, simply disable that option will stop the personalize advertisement magically pops out. Or will it?

Sorry, there is no sweet spot here

Between being listen or not being listen, unfortunately sweet spot of this did not exists (yet), you can not have it all. I tried to disable audio sharing option at the setup page but finds out that I am still, getting pushed by personalized advertisement. Because I am still using various app to Voice Call to my friends. Where those app has requested me allow them to use my microphone. Simply disable core function of the phone is only effective on basis usage. When you allow an app to use your microphone, there will always a leak to share your conversation during using that app. Best way to avoid it is only use FaceTime or regular phone calls and not use any of other voice call app.

What would you think about this?

Being listen? Or rather not?

I am so used to Siri helps me to start a timer while doing laundry, reminds me return a call 10 minutes later. Even schedule my events and etc... It is too convenience and seamless to a point that when I am at some places can not speak freely, I find myself have trouble to find all the options inside calendar and reminders. I am sure they designed this purposely to make users feel it is easier to set things up by their virtual assistance but not by their own hands. And this is how they make you can not turn virtual assistance off. I guess, surveillance actually is all about convenience.