The Apps That Listen
Is this thing on? Yes, your mic is on, and it’s listening and learning what you like.
I was wondering how all these social media companies could get away with saying “we don’t listen in on you.” When we all clearly have ads from Google and Facebook targeting us for stuff we’ve spoken about but have not searched.
Technically, the big tech company executives are not lying when they say “we don’t record your conversations.” This is because they use a service from Alphonso Software, and this software doesn’t “record” our convo’s, it just listens to them.
Alphonso listens for unique sounds in radio, TV, and web material like YouTube to know what we are watching. I cannot confirm if it listens for spoken keywords, but I would bet my last dollar it does.
Although, it’s not uncommon for ads to put unique sound signals at a tone human ears don’t pick up to make tracking our media habits more effective. It’s been happening for a long time with older tech like the “Neilson family box” you could be paid to have in your living room. Remember those? Damn, now I feel old! I used to have a “modern” one in University that was a pager. They paid me $5 a day wear it, provided it collected enough data to keep them satisfied. Alphonso is like Neilson 2.0
The software isn’t even embedded in the Facebook app, it’s usually placed into much less suspicious apps like games or even the Bible app. I remember the flashlight app was a scandalous one years ago before it became a standard feature on all our phones. And the kicker? What does Facebook push on you a ton as you scroll? Games.
According to the NY Times, this software is in over 1000 games, and even more apps on top of that! In fact, here are some MASSIVE apps using Alphonso that aren’t games: LinkedIn, Airbnb, and Netflix!
All of this ”cloak and dagger” monitoring is on the side of things like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, and IBM’s Watson. We all volunteer our data to these devices and we know it’s recording.
So, the next time you find yourself tapping the mic and asking “is this thing on?” Just know it probably is.