Experts warn that your phone really is listening to you
07/01/2018 // Vicki Batts // Views

Under the guise of convenience, it seems we've all been inviting Big Brother into our homes (and our pocket and purses) with open arms. Smartphones and all their associated apps, gadgets and other trinkets of technology proclaim to make life easier: Your phone can now tell you where your car is parked and how far away you are; it will automatically tell you how long your commute to work will be and it can even offer you alternate routes.

These feats are no doubt impressive -- but for those who still value their personal privacy (and freedom, honestly), the absence of a true "private" life is unnerving. Your phone (and Google, and Facebook) is always watching: It knows where you've been, where you are and where you want to go, it knows who you're talking to and what restaurant you went to for dinner. The omniscient, omnipresence of the digital world is indeed highly concerning.

You might even liken our new digital overlords to the all-seeing Eye of Sauron in Lord of The Rings. Watching a distressed millennial searching for their misplaced cellphone certainly evokes shades of Gollum.

Your phone is watching you, even if they say its not

Facebook and Google claim that they don't spy on users without consent. There are countless anecdotes from people who say they have a personal conversation about something -- and then later see ads for related products in their Facebook feed.

Peter Henway, a senior security consultant for cybersecurity firm Asterisk, says that phones are constantly lying in wait. If you use virtual assistant apps, the phone is listening for wake words like "Hey Siri" or "OK Google."

"From time to time, snippets of audio do go back to [apps like Facebook's] servers but there's no official understanding what the triggers for that are," he explained.

"Whether it's timing or location-based or usage of certain functions, [apps] are certainly pulling those microphone permissions and using those periodically. All the internals of the applications send this data in encrypted form, so it's very difficult to define the exact trigger," Henway stated further.

Ultimately, he said, there are thousands of unknown triggers that can prompt devices to start mining your conversations for advertising info. In fact, Henway posited, it would not be surprising if a majority of apps are using trigger words taken from conversations to better target customers.

As sources explain, "their entire business model depends on them obtaining vast amounts of data about people to feed their algorithms. Their behavioral advertising targets consumers directly, using deep profiles of them and algorithms that look at race, religion, age, nationality, and other aspects of a person." Spying is immensely profitable for the digital companies of the world -- but that's not all they're up to.

Google, Facebook aren't just spying on you

Beyond the overreaching surveillance efforts, companies like Facebook and Google are orchestrating another, more covert scheme. It's easily noticed when an app seems to know a bit too much about you, where you've been or who you've talked to -- but what may not be so readily seen is that these apps also control what you see, and what you know.

Both Google and Facebook are quietly suppressing conservative (or otherwise "dissenting") thought through a variety of different measures. Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled the company's plan to combat "fake news," but it quickly became clear that Zuck and his ilk will only be targeting news outlets they don't agree with. Google is employing similar tactics to keep the masses under their spell.

Read more stories about our orchestrated existence at

Sources for this article include:

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