Friday, 27 April, 2018


Hundreds of Android and iOS apps are eavesdropping on users

OnePlus Switch Hundreds of Android and iOS apps are eavesdropping on users
Melba Vasquez | 12 January, 2018, 18:56

"Alphonso" collects this data for advertisers to create more personalized ads and also to track the effectiveness of TV ads, such as those for vehicle dealers.

The New York Times reports that "hundreds" of apps are embedding a revenue stream-creating package called Alphonso that uses your smartphone microphone to track your TV viewing habits.

The Federal Trade Commission had warned developers that they must notify users on their apps' monitoring habits before users get to install the pieces of software on their phones. Most of these apps do not otherwise use a microphone and can monitor a mic even when they're closed.

Both Google and Apple have strict rules and require apps to ask permissions from users to access a device's camera, microphone and other features, but a lot of users ignore these disclosures. But if that happened, chances are Alphonso wouldn't have much of a user base anymore as who would opt to enable use of a microphone to listen to what you are watching?

"The consumer is opting in knowingly and can opt out anytime", explains Ashish Cordia, CEO of Alphonso. This data is also sold to third party companies, and isn't necessarily anonymized. Alphonso claims its use of the devices is clearly stated in its privacy policy, but given how little users pay attention to those - and the fact that many of these games are geared toward children - it's likely many users are being tracked without knowing it. While Alphonso can not track human speech and uses audio signals for marketing purposes, it does offer another reminder that you can not simply trust an app or a game just because it's being downloaded from official marketplaces like the Play Store. The game designed by Imobile Game Studios, which when downloaded, apparently asks for location and microphone access, which is odd for a game to do so. "Access to the microphone is allowed only with your consent, and the audio samples do not leave your device but are instead hashed into digital 'audio signatures'".

So when the app is running it will listen for "set-top-boxes, media players, gaming consoles, broadcast, or another video source (e.g., TV shows, streaming programs, advertisements, etc.)" However, it won't record your voice.

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