Does your smartphone seem to constantly spy on your conversations? Here is the explanation – CCM

Are you constantly being listened to and spied on through your phone? You can rightly ask yourself this question if you see an advertisement near your smartphone about a topic that was mentioned during a conversation. Here is the explanation.

You have probably already experienced such a situation. You sit quietly with a friend, your smartphone within reach, and discuss an exhibition, a film or another product. The next day, while consulting your news feed on your social networks or doing an internet search, you come across an ad for that exhibition, film or product. However, you are sure: no one else has told you about it. How is it possible ? Is your smartphone constantly listening to you, showing you targeted ads and knowing your every move?

Let’s stop the suspense right away: No, your smartphone is not secretly listening to your conversations, unless you are a victim of sophisticated malware. However, the truth is not much more reassuring: the web giants, Google and Meta (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) at the top, know you so well that they don’t need that to send you advertising perfectly. targeted, to the point that they give the impression that they have been spied on!

Facebook had already put the icing on the cake in 2016 after a series of disturbing press articles. In a press release, the company said it did not use the microphone to refine its advertising targeting. In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg reiterated this before the US Congress and invoked a “conspiracy theory”. Google is regularly accused and has repeatedly denied listening to its users.

And in this particular case, we can believe them. Firstly, because it is technically impossible. A few years ago, Antonio Garcia Martinez, an author and former Facebook employee, estimated for Wired magazine the amount of data that persistent smartphone tapping would generate if implemented by Meta. With two billion daily users in the world, transmitting a decent quality audio stream would equate to about 260 petabytes of data, or the equivalent of 260,000 1TB hard drives… per day! An unimaginable volume, even for the web giants. Especially since after collecting all this data, an analysis would also be required, which would entail enormous costs.

Such a mass collection would also have been discovered long ago by computer security experts, particularly through network traffic analysis. However, independent researchers who have studied the topic, such as William Budington of the Electronic Frontier Foundation or the company Wandera, have not found the slightest evidence of this practice.

However, there is a moment when your smartphone listens to you: when you activate Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa. Voice assistants, which have also contributed significantly to the urban legend of this form of espionage, as they constantly wait for the keyword that you can use to wake them up to take your command.

And their use is not without risk to your privacy: as soon as you speak to a voice assistant, your words are recorded, transmitted over the Internet and sometimes listened to by a human for analysis purposes. Thomas Le Bonniec, a former Apple subcontractor expert, recently recalled this on France Info: The iPhone maker has long had employees listen to snippets of conversations recorded by Siri. Google and Amazon have similar programs that they say are essential to perfecting their systems. This is even more problematic because these assistants are often triggered accidentally and can therefore transmit confidential conversations.

However, if you are uncomfortable with this, you can disable it or block access to your device’s microphone. Apple and Google have also integrated a notification system into their respective operating systems that permanently displays a warning as soon as the microphone or camera is activated.

Let’s go back to the beginning of our story. The answer is simple: Meta and Google have so much personal information about you that they can deliver incredibly targeted advertising to you without listening to your conversations. Even recognize your purchasing wishes! First of all, there is the Pixel Meta, a tracker present on millions of websites that allows the company to know the majority of the websites you visit and link them to your profile. Google has even more powerful tools for this (Google Analytics, DoubleClick, Adsense, etc.).

In addition, Facebook and Google also rely on your location, which, if you are not careful, will be permanently recorded by their services. Very valuable information that allows you to know the places you visit, your favorite shops and your daily habits. It’s certainly possible to turn off this tracking, but even then, Facebook has techniques to “estimate your general location.”

We now know why Facebook seems to be listening to

All this allows us to imagine a simple scenario to solve the mystery of that ad that appeared in your feed: perhaps your friend liked a publication in which the exhibition was mentioned, or he was discovered via his smartphone at the location where it took place. Then when you met again, Meta or Google, again thanks to its location services, found out that you were together. Their algorithms then “pushed” the advertisements to your profile and concluded that you likely had common tastes. In short, there is no need to listen to us all the time, quite the opposite. The traces we constantly leave on the web are enough for the web giants to track us perfectly.