Your phone is listening and helping marketers to target you. What can you do about it?
LONDON, Nov. 3, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Last year, there was a 5% increase in the installation of monitoring apps, a study by NordVPN shows. Yet some users suspect that their smartphones are spying on them even if they have no monitoring apps installed.
This is true. Virtual assistants like Siri, Google Assistant, or Alexa listen to their users all the time. They have to constantly listen so they can hear the voice command and assist. However, some of the things people say are being recorded for companies’ own benefit, like improving the service quality or for marketing purposes.
“When you ask Google Assistant or Siri to find something, this information is used for online advertising. It’s no different from typing something into Google Search. If you’re looking for car dealerships in your city, related ads will start chasing you across the internet. In a way, virtual assistant is just another search engine,” says Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN.
The expert shares how you can check if your phone is spying on you.
How to test your phone?
The best way to see if your phone is helping marketers target you is by setting up a trap.
- Select a good topic.
- Isolate the topic from your phone.
- Select keywords.
- Discuss the topic out loud next to your phone.
Once you set up the trap, notice if any new ads have started targeting you on social media or other digital channels. If they have, then your phone is probably helping these ads reach you.
How can you protect your privacy?
First of all, you should review your app permissions.
“Once access is granted, the app can do whatever it wants with that data. So, build a routine to review your phone’s app permissions and think twice before agreeing to an app’s demands,” Daniel Markuson, digital privacy expert at NordVPN, emphasizes.
Some apps might want to access your microphone without any reason. This might allow bad actors to spy on you in the background or collect ad-targeting data when you don’t want them listening.
Also, clear your activities once in a while and turn off the audio recording function.
Finally, install a VPN on your smartphone and enhance your privacy. A virtual private network masks your IP address and encrypts traffic.