Shhh...Is your phone listening? Click to uncover the disturbing reality!

Is your phone listening to you secretly? It’s time to discover the shocking truth!

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PUREVPNGuidesEverything You Need to KnowIs your phone listening to you secretly? It’s time to discover the shocking truth!

Is your phone listening in on your conversations? 

Have you ever felt a creepy coincidence? Maybe you casually mentioned a product in a conversation with a friend at dinner, and then you were bombarded with targeted ads popping up on your social media platforms moments later. 

The internet is full of stories of people swearing that rather unusual or niche conversation topics led to very specific ads — e.g. talks about cat food or the sudden intentions to start a new university degree. This isn’t just a strange quirk of the internet or paranoia – it’s a sign your phone might be listening to you.  

While not actively spying in the traditional sense, our smartphones are equipped with voice assistants like Google Assistant and Siri that are constantly on standby, waiting for wake words like “Hey Google” or “Hey Siri” to activate. These virtual assistant apps rely on access to your phone’s microphone to capture voice commands, but what happens to the audio recordings beyond these interactions?

Can your phone be listening even when you’re not using a wake word? 

If you’re feeling concerned about privacy, Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This blog dives into the world of phone listening. We’ll also shed light on microphone permissions for apps and how they can be used for marketing purposes, so you can make informed decisions about how much access you grant and protect your privacy.

Is it true that my phone is listening to me?

Whether your phone listens to your conversations depends on your consent to the terms and conditions of apps utilizing voice-activated technology. According to a 2023 Pew Research Center, privacy policies implemented by apps, websites, and other online services allow users to review and consent to the usage of their data.

However, many argue that the lengthy and technical nature of privacy policies can hinder their effectiveness, leading to consumers feeling that they lack meaningful choices. The survey reveals that a majority of Americans, 56%, frequently click “agree” without actually reading the contents of privacy policies.

Furthermore, most individuals believe they have minimal to no control over how companies or the government utilize their data, expressing concern about data collected by both companies (73%) and the government (79%).

What’s more, according to Daily Mail, technological companies obtain customer permission through extensive agreements, which are then utilized to gather details. Subsequently, these details are passed on to relevant companies, who flood users with targeted advertisements.

Additionally, it’s also courtesy of virtual assistants utilizing your device’s microphone. Beginning with Apple’s introduction of Siri in 2011, a stack of virtual assistants like Alexa and Cortana followed suit, constantly tuned in to your voice. According to The Guardian, Amazon staff listens audio in effort to help AI-powered voice assistant Alexa respond to human commands.

They remain on standby until triggered by specific commands, facilitating tasks such as making calls, sending texts, and providing information. However, the reality is more intricate.

Why is my phone listening to me?

Your phone engages in eavesdropping primarily to execute voice commands and tailor personalized advertisements. According to a 2023 Pew Research Center, privacy policies implemented by apps, websites, and other online services allow users to review and consent to the usage of their data.

Moreover, some news sites have claimed that companies use our phones to listen to our conversations, predicting our purchasing preferences. Conversely, other sources have denied these claims, with Facebook and Instagram denying such practices. This discrepancy raises questions about the validity of these assertions and the true nature of smartphone surveillance.

Besides this, commands to voice assistants like Google Assistant or Siri, for instance, contribute to the data pool utilized for targeted ads, akin to search engine queries. Simply put, virtual assistants function as an extension of search engines in delivering relevant content and services.

Read more: Inside the spy on phone saga – Ensuring your device’s safety

How to test if your phone is spying on you?

Discovering whether your phone is listening and recording your conversations is simpler than you might think. Conducting a simple test can unveil whether your phone is indeed listening and recording your conversations. 

Begin by selecting a topic completely unrelated to your usual interests and ensuring your phone is far from earshot. Without researching or discussing it digitally, engage in conversation about this topic over a few days. Keywords relevant to the topic can include “holidays in Alaska” or “flights to Alaska.” 

Following these steps, any subsequent advertisements or recommendations related to your discussion would indicate your phone’s eavesdropping tendencies.

Moreover, everyone seems to have a story about their smartphone listening to them – and that’s scary. 

The legality of your phone listening hinges on your explicit consent outlined in the terms and conditions of your virtual assistant service provider. By agreeing to these terms, such as granting permission in your virtual assistant settings, the tracking of your conversations by Google Assistant, Siri, or Alexa for marketing purposes is within legal bounds.

However, illegal surveillance occurs when an app secretly monitors you without your consent. Vigilance is crucial in assessing the permissions granted to various services and understanding the extent of your phone’s tracking mechanisms. 

Suspicion should arise if, for instance, a photo editing app requests access to your microphone, as it could exploit this access to secretly record your voice for nefarious purposes.

Apps that listen to your conversations

If you’re worried about the privacy of your phone discussions, it’s important to note that tech companies have alternative, more efficient means to gather information about you, without the need to eavesdrop. However, there are still some apps that actively monitor your conversations. Take a look at this brief list to identify which ones they are:

  • Apple’s Siri
  • Google Voice Assistant
  • Amazon’s Alexa

How to prevent your phone from listening to you (iOS and Android)

While it’s true that your phone may potentially listen to you, this typically occurs only when you’ve granted permission. However, there are rare instances, such as using malicious apps or falling victim to phone hacking, where eavesdropping may occur without your consent. 

In most cases, it’s likely that you have granted permission for your phone to listen to you by overlooking the Terms and Conditions during app downloads or software updates.

Most smartphones come equipped with a voice assistant, allowing users to control their devices via voice commands. If you’re concerned about your phone listening to you, it’s important to deactivate this feature.

Also, in 2019, a leak occurred involving 1000 voice recordings harvested by Google Assistant, which were subsequently disclosed to the Belgium media outlet VRT News. These recordings, believed to have been predominantly collected from Android phones, contained sufficient information to identify the owners of the devices.

Disable Siri (iOS Only)

The default voice assistant on iOS devices is Siri. To turn off Siri:

  1. Navigate to Settings on your iOS device.
  2. Tap on Siri & Search.
  3. Toggle off Listen for “Hey Siri” and press the side button for Siri.
  4. When prompted, tap Turn Off Siri.

Disable Google Assistant (iOS and Android)

Google Assistant serves as Google’s voice assistant and is accessible on both Android and iOS platforms.

To disable it on Android devices:

  1. Open the Google app on your Android device.
  2. Tap your profile picture.
  3. Navigate to Settings > Google Assistant.
  4. Select General.
  5. Toggle Google Assistant off.
  6. Confirm by tapping “turn off”.

To disable Google Assistant on iOS, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the Settings app.
  2. Tap on Google Assistant.
  3. Toggle off the Microphone.
  4. Alternatively, you can uninstall the Google Assistant app from your iOS device.

On the other hand, you can also disable microphone access for individual apps on both iOS and Android devices.

For Android devices:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Go to Security and privacy > Privacy > Permission manager.
  3. Select Microphone.
  4. Review the list of apps and choose the ones you wish to restrict microphone access for.
  5. Tap on the app and select “Don’t allow.”

For iOS devices:

  1. Access the Settings app.
  2. Tap on Privacy > Microphone.
  3. Review the list of apps and select those you want to revoke microphone access from.
  4. Toggle the switch off.

By following these steps, you can effectively prevent your phone from actively listening to you through voice assistants and app permissions, safeguarding your privacy from potential misuse of audio recordings for marketing purposes.

Guide: How to stop someone from spying on your cell phone

How to protect your privacy on a smartphone

In the digital realm, while the internet offers immense benefits, it also poses potential threats to your privacy. However, you can proactively protect your online privacy and security by adopting certain practices and staying vigilant against potential risks when it comes to phone listening. 

Here are essential steps you can take to enhance your online privacy:

Secure app downloads

Stick to official app stores when it comes to downloading apps that will help in shielding you from potentially harmful third-party scams and other malicious activities.

Review app permissions

Be proactive in checking app permissions and revoke microphone access for apps that don’t require it, minimizing the risk of unauthorized audio recordings.

Keep your smartphone updated 

Regularly update your operating system to leverage security enhancements that fortify your device against malware and other digital threats.

Use a VPN 

Employ a reliable and leading Virtual Private Network (VPN) such as PureVPN to encrypt your internet connection and hide your IP address, effectively concealing your online activities from hackers, ISP surveillance, and other prying eyes. That’s not all, PureVPN also comes with Tracker Blocker which scans for hidden web trackers and restricts their tracking. 

Read more: Take control of your online privacy with the new Tracker Blocker feature

Strengthen device security

Implement robust security measures such as setting up strong passwords, using biometric authentication methods like fingerprint or face ID, and activating PIN codes to safeguard your device from unauthorized access in case of theft or loss.

Install Antivirus software

Install reputable antivirus software on your smartphone to provide an additional layer of defense against malware and other malicious software that may compromise your device’s security.

By following these proactive measures, you can significantly enhance your privacy and security while using your smartphone, mitigating the risks associated with potential eavesdropping, unauthorized data collection, and other privacy infringements.

Safeguarding your privacy in the age of phone listening

The phenomenon of phone listening has become an increasingly prevalent concern in today’s digital landscape. With the growth of virtual assistant apps like Siri, Google Assistant, and others, coupled with the permissions granted to microphone access, users face heightened risks of their conversations being monitored for various purposes, including marketing. 

However, by implementing proactive measures such as disabling unnecessary app permissions, installing PureVPN for enhanced privacy, and staying vigilant for signs of unauthorized surveillance, individuals can take meaningful steps to protect their privacy on smartphones. 

Remember, staying informed and proactive is key to safeguarding your digital privacy in an ever-evolving technological landscape. 

For more updates on staying safe online and exclusive deals, follow PureVPN Blog and stay in touch with our social channels.

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