Your Phone Is Listening and it's Not Paranoia

Discussion in 'Serious Discussion' started by parrish, Jun 7, 2018.

  1. parrish

    parrish MDL Novice

    Oct 16, 2016
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    Your Phone Is Listening and it's Not Paranoia


    Here's how I got to bottom of the ads-coinciding-with-conversations mystery.


    A couple years ago, something strange happened.


    A friend and I were sitting at a bar, iPhones in pockets, discussing our recent trips in Japan and how we’d like to go back.


    The very next day, we both received pop-up ads on Facebook about cheap return flights to Tokyo. It seemed like just a spooky coincidence, but then everyone seems to have a story about their smartphone listening to them.


    So is this just paranoia, or are our smartphones actually listening?


    According to Dr. Peter Hannay—The senior security consultant for cybersecurity firm Asterisk, and former lecturer and researcher at Edith Cowan University—the short answer is yes, but perhaps in a way that's not as diabolical as it sounds.


    For your smartphone to actually pay attention and record your conversation, there needs to be a trigger, such as when you say “hey Siri” or “okay Google.”


    In the absence of these triggers, any data you provide is only processed within your own phone.


    This might not seem a cause for alarm, but any third party applications you have on your phone—like Facebook for example—still have access to this “non-triggered” data.



    And whether or not they use this data is really up to them.


    Whispering some sweet nothings to my phone



    “From time to time, snippets of audio do go back to [other apps like Facebook’s] servers but there’s no official understanding what the triggers for that are,” explains Peter.


    “Whether it’s timing or location-based or usage of certain functions, [apps] are certainly pulling those microphone permissions and using those periodically.


    All the internals of the applications send this data in encrypted form, so it’s very difficult to define the exact trigger.”


    He goes on to explain that apps like Facebook or Instagram could have thousands of triggers.


    An ordinary conversation with a friend about needing a new pair of jeans could be enough to activate it.


    Although, the key word here is “could,” because although the technology is there, companies like Facebook vehemently deny listening to our conversations.

    “Seeing Google are open about it, I would personally assume the other companies are doing the same.”


    Peter tells me.


    “Really, there’s no reason they wouldn’t be. It makes good sense from a marketing standpoint, and their end-use agreements and the law both allow it, so I would assume they’re doing it, but there’s no way to be sure.”


    With this in mind, I decided to try an experiment.



    Twice a day for five days, I tried saying a bunch of phrases that could theoretically be used as triggers.


    Phrases like I’m thinking about going back to uni and I need some cheap shirts for work.


    Then I carefully monitored the sponsored posts on Facebook for any changes.


    I'd never seen this ad for "quality clothing" until I told my phone I needed shirts


    The changes came literally overnight. Suddenly I was being told mid-semester courses at various universities, and how certain brands were offering cheap clothing.


    A private conversation with a friend about how I’d run out of data led to an ad about cheap 20 GB data plans.


    And although they were all good deals, the whole thing was eye-opening and utterly terrifying.


    Peter told me that although no data is guaranteed to be safe for perpetuity, he assured me that in 2018 no company is selling their data directly to advertisers.


    But as we all know, advertisers don’t need our data for us to see their ads.


    “Rather than saying here’s a list of people who followed your demographic, they say Why don’t you give me some money, and I’ll make that demographic or those who are interested in this will see it.



    If they let that information out into the wild, they’ll lose that exclusive access to it, so they’re going to try to keep it as secret as possible.


    Peter went on to say that just because tech companies value our data, it doesn’t keep it safe from governmental agencies.


    As most tech companies are based in the US, the NSA or perhaps the CIA can potentially have your information disclosed to them, whether it’s legal in your home country or not.


    So yes, our phones are listening to us and anything we say around our phones could potentially be used against us.


    But, according to Peter at least, it’s not something most people should be scared of.



    Because unless you’re a journalist, a lawyer, or have some kind of role with sensitive information, the access of your data is only really going to advertisers.



    If you’re like everyone else, living a really normal life, and talking to your friends about flying to Japan, then it’s really not that different to advertisers looking at your browsing history.


    “It’s just an extension from what advertising used to be on television,” says Peter. Only instead of prime time audiences, they’re now tracking web-browsing habits.


    It’s not ideal, but I don’t think it poses an immediate threat to most people.”



    Code:
    https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/wjbzzy/your-phone-is-listening-and-its-not-paranoia
     
  2. WindowsGeek

    WindowsGeek MDL Senior Member

    Jun 30, 2015
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    That's not new news of course your phone is a two way listening and tracking device.
     
  3. Yen

    Yen Admin
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    May 6, 2007
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    #3 Yen, Jun 8, 2018
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2018
    Yes, that's not new news. Those people who do not want to have that true or say it's paranoid or a tinfoil hat theory they never have got what's all about that.
    It's not surveillance at first place, it's data mining (means extraction of knowledge which is valid, formerly unknown and useful) in order to make predictions of human consume behavior.

    The principle behind that:
    The customer of such devices gets stuff and services preinstalled and for 'free'.

    By violating privacy and local laws they 'listen' to you.
    Goal is to spam and to make money out of the customers either directly by motivating them to buy stuff or indirectly to sell the info gained by data mining.

    To make an Android phone stop 'listening' one actually has to remove the Gapps completely and to control anything by firewall. Even their browser tracks user behavior. Also messengers which are for free such as whatsapp 'share' data.

    First sign that indicates that is that you suddenly get ads about stuff you were interested in before (browsed for that or posted about at social media, or talked about via messengers)........
     
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  4. Joe C

    Joe C MDL Guru

    Jan 12, 2012
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  5. Michaela Joy

    Michaela Joy MDL Crazy Lady

    Jul 26, 2012
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    It's one thing to purchase a device like that. You know it can (and will) do that.
    It's another thing for your cell phone to do it without their knowledge.
     
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  6. Joe C

    Joe C MDL Guru

    Jan 12, 2012
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    I thought it was always a given that everybody already knows that your cell phone can track and spy on you.
    "Made in China" that always a comfort too
     
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  7. Yen

    Yen Admin
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    May 6, 2007
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    The funny part is that actually everybody (still) can live with that.
    The part of people which does not know something about it cannot have a problem since the fact does not exist for them / is unaware.
    The part which knows about either ignores it (saying it's a minor issue, the opinion is mostly reasoned with the statement that one's nothing to hide) or starts to get interested in how to minimize it (to prevent completely is actually impossible) and applies the gained/learned measures.

    Besides of all the phones and their abilities to mine data another important thing is 'what' people do disclose about themselves on their own, voluntarily. And how they interconnect their accounts and usernames...even with real identity...and where they post. (which app is used)
     
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  8. lewcass

    lewcass MDL Senior Member

    Mar 10, 2018
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    There was a couple who had one of these "smart" home devices which sent an audo recording to friends that the couple didnt know about. The devices may be "smart" but the users are utter dimloes. They are walking blindly into George Orwell's 1984 because they are blinded by technology. Fidiots.
     
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  9. MS_User

    MS_User MDL Guru

    Nov 30, 2014
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    echo2 alexa mayor spying device i cant believe people are soooooooooooooooooooooooooo stupid to have that kind of device in their homes.....man people are DUMB!!!!!
     
  10. lewcass

    lewcass MDL Senior Member

    Mar 10, 2018
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    4133NH996NL._SL350_.jpg Need i say more?
     
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  11. pf100

    pf100 MDL Expert

    Oct 22, 2010
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    A cell phone is a tracking device that lets you make phone calls.
     
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  12. Michaela Joy

    Michaela Joy MDL Crazy Lady

    Jul 26, 2012
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    :laie: So true.

    And a boat is a hole in the water into which you throw money. :)
     
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