Suspect your devices may be eavesdropping? Discover how to verify.

December 17, 2023
1 min read
  • Cox Media Group (CMG) recently claimed that their marketing team at 404 Media has developed an “Active Listening” feature that allows users’ devices to listen to and collect data that is relevant for selling to advertisers.
  • The claims suggesting devices are recording voice data for advertisers have been deemed baseless; Gizmodo’s scrutiny reveals that there is very little evidence substantiating this assertion.
  • Checking permissions and settings on devices such as Android phones and iPhones can ensure user’s are in control of what their device has access to.

The marketing team at 404 Media, under Cox Media Group (CMG), has made headlines by stating that “your devices are listening to you” and using the captured data to market to advertisers. The company tantalizingly referred to this as an “Active Listening” feature, suggesting that voice data could be collected using phrases like “The car lease ends in a month- we need a plan”.

However, the CMG’s claims about devices recording voice data are baseless, and they have since redirected the website page containing these controversial declarations. Gizmodo has highlighted past research that provides negligible evidence supporting the speculation that your phone’s microphone is capturing your conversations.

Rather than scouring hours of audio content, it is far more practical and cost-effective for advertisers to gather your web data, such as search queries, browser cookies, and social media activity. The security systems integrated into modern Android and iPhones would alert you if your device was listening to your conversations.

Users can review their phone’s permissions to ensure no unnecessary apps have access to their microphone. Both Android and iOS devices provide clear indicators when the microphone is active. iOS users will notice an orange dot in the status bar, while Android users will see a green dot in the top right corner. For further assurance, users can delve into their phone’s Permission settings to verify which apps have microphone access.

Many tools come inbuilt into the devices to ensure the security of user data. For example, checking permissions is a relatively straightforward process on both Android and iPhone devices. The end goal is to enable only trusted apps with microphone access, typically under the stipulation ‘Allowed only while in use’ and not ‘Allowed all the time’.

To increase security measures on your phone, it could be worthwhile exploring further through resources such as the innovative security features in iOS 17, and Google’s newly introduced real-time malware scan function for Android devices.

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