Last year Thomas le Bonniec revealed to The Guardian that while working for Apple, he heard a vast array of private and sometimes intimate voice recordings sent unwittingly by Siri users, including medical discussions, drug deals, and people having sex. These snippets were sometimes taken without a user deliberately activating Siri.
I don’t know about you, but that freaks me out. I have often opened my phone to do a quick search and was disturbed to see an advertisement pop up about something I discussed with friends and family. Initially, I thought I was becoming more paranoid as I mature. It turns out Siri is listening. In 2018, Sam Nichols, a reporter for the online site Vice, experimented to see if his phone was listening to his conversations. For five days in a row and two times daily, he uttered phrases to his phone and monitored his Facebook feed for changes, specifically for sponsored posts. He said the changes to his Facebook ad content “came literally overnight.” He tested phrases like “going back to the university” and later saw ads for mid-semester university courses, and after he said “I need some cheap shirts,” he saw ads for cheap apparel.
An eavesdropping mobile device is a bit unsettling. It is bad enough that Apple has engineered planned obsolescence making last seasons iPhone stop working right before a new version is released. Now they are big brother. A group of researchers from Northeastern University found that apps installed on smartphones can record your screen and whatever you type, including user names and passwords.
According to Pew Research, A growing share of Americans now use smartphones as their primary means of online access at home. Today roughly one-in-five American adults are “smartphone-only” internet users – meaning they own a smartphone, but do not have traditional home broadband service. With twenty percent of the US population exclusively using smartphones, the opportunity to snoop grows exponentially.
This snooping is not exclusive to our smartphones. Amazon’s Alexa is listening too. Technology columnist for the Washington Post Geoffery Fowler wrote that Alexa keeps a record of what it hears every time an Echo speaker activates. It’s supposed to record only with a “wake word” — “Alexa!” — but anyone with one of these devices knows they go rogue. I counted dozens of times when I was recorded without a legitimate prompt.
Knowledge is power. With big tech listening in to our conversations, tracking our searches, and knowing what we purchase, we are entering the world of closed-loop data. As we use our mobile devices, more and more Apple and Google know too much about us, giving them an unfair advantage. Couple that with Alexa’s intimate look into our everyday lives allowing Amazon to curate products for us to purchase, we become exposed and have no more privacy.
Fowler, G. (2019, May 08). Perspective | Alexa has been eavesdropping on you this whole time. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/05/06/alexa-has-been-eavesdropping-you-this-whole-time/
K. (2019, November 12). Your phone really is listening to you. 4 things you can do to stop it. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.komando.com/security-privacy/youre-not-paranoid-your-phone-really-is-listening-to-everything-you-say/464613/
Nichols, S. (n.d.). Your Phone Is Listening and it’s Not Paranoia. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.vice.com/en/article/wjbzzy/your-phone-is-listening-and-its-not-paranoia
Taylor, S. (2019, September 23). 10 ways to make your phone safer, according to security experts. Retrieved October 23, 2020, from https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-make-phone-safe-security-tips-2019-9