Do our smartphones really listen to us through their microphones and then offer us targeted advertising? French website Le Journal du Geek recently highlighted the results of a study conducted by researchers from Northeastern University in the United States who looked into the subject.
Regarding tapping the results have been reassuring, even if researchers do not rule out having perhaps missed certain background activity performed by applications. Upon analysis of 17,260 Android apps they found no evidence of audio recordings made without users’ knowledge.
Video recordings and screenshots collected
On the other hand, researchers have discovered that some apps send video recordings and screenshots to third parties. This is the case with GoPuff, a meal delivery app that sent video recordings of customer trends to Appsee, a data analysis company. The fact that these trends would be transmitted to a third party was not always made formally explicit in the authorisations signed by the users.
The paranoia some smartphone owners feel is thus not necessarily unjustified, especially if app designers do not inform users on this type of data collection. ‘What people do not seem to understand is that there are several other ways of tracking you throughout everyday life not involving the camera or the microphone in your smartphone, which can provide just as comprehensive an outlook on you to third-party services,’ says one of the authors of the study David Choffnes, which is not reassuring to even the most skeptical of us.