The return of Black Mirror is making us all paranoid about technology being taken too far, but perhaps we have good reason to be?
A shocking new report has found how over 250 games from the Google Play Store are diligently taking note of what you’ve been watching on TV, before sending this personal information on to advertisers for the purposes of ad targeting and analysis.
Horrifyingly, these apps can listen in even when they aren’t even running, but perhaps most disturbingly of all, some of these apps are directed at children, including games such as Teeth Fixed and Zap Balloons.
On your phone, go under settings, go under privacy, go under location services and see all the different apps that are spying on you!
— Dr. Eric Cole (@drericcole) December 22, 2017
This report comes from The New York Times, who’ve explained how such apps use software from start-up Alphonso to check out your taste in box-set bingeing.
The software uses a smartphone’s microphone to pick up audio signals in TV advertisements and programmes – in some cases, these details can be pieced together with the places you visit and the films you see.
However, we can apparently be rest assured human speech won’t be recorded, meaning your vocal debates/argument sover what to watch on Netflix won’t be listened to – at least for now…
@smerconish The best way to eliminate the phone threat is to not install the apps that support this kind of spying. I don't have any social apps installed and only have to put up with all the robo-calls!
— Rick Sears (@Jazzhawk) December 23, 2017
Alphonso’s chief executive Ashish Chordia told The New York Times how ‘the consumer is opting in knowingly and can opt out any time’, advising opt-out instructions are readily available on their website.
Chordia also explained how your apps could be listening in to what you are watching at the cinema:
A lot of the folks will go and turn off their phone, but a small portion of people don’t and put it in their pocket,
In those cases, we are able to pick up on a small sample who are watching the show or the movie.
However, it’s evident more needs to be done to educate consumers about what they’re getting themselves into when they download certain apps.
I personally feel it’s fair to argue this information isn’t being presented clearly enough – meaning this revelation has taken many of us by surprise.
Director of consumer privacy and technology policy at the Consumers Union, Justin Brookman, told The New York Times:
When you see ‘permission for microphone access for ads,’ it may not be clear to a user that, Oh, this means it’s going to be listening to what I do all the time to see if I’m watching ‘Monday Night Football.’
They need to go above and beyond and be careful to make sure consumers know what’s going on.
UNILAD recently explored a sinister Apple loophole whereby a consumer can be photographed and filmed without their knowledge.
iOS engineer Felix Krause told UNILAD:
If you think about the average social media app or messaging service, they could in theory access your camera any time the app is running.
Apple will check for this in the app review probably, but developers could find a way around it?
It’s definitely something that shouldn’t be possible like it is now.
Check out more about this chilling prospect below:
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As useful as such practices may be for advertisers, this is an extremely disconcerting prospect for those of us who value privacy during our leisure time.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications. When not Lad-ing about, she enjoys cooking, reading and trying not to fall over in Yoga.