Ever feel like the apps on your phone can hear everything you say? You may not be too far off from what most Americans believe what smartphones can do. While they have the technical capability to secretly record your conversations, there is little evidence to support the notion that they actually do.
According to a National 2019 Consumer Reports survey of 1,006 adults, 43 percent believed their phone recorded conversations without their knowledge or consent. Although researchers found no evidence to suggest such spying took place.
Michael Covington, a vice president at Wandera, a mobile security company, says there are much more effective ways to collect information on you using information gathered from high profile apps. These include Amazon, Chrome, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube— all known for large-scale data collection.
While Covington found no evidence of secret recordings, through these apps in his research, he did find other practical ways of gathering market intelligence on you using the apps. Many of these apps, he found, track your location throughout the day using your phone’s GPS and pings off of various cell towers. Facebook, for example, monitors your browsing habits beyond of its own platform through a file known as the Facebook Pixel that’s placed on websites across the internet.
One study found that more than 9,000 Android apps are secretly taking screenshots and/or recording videos of smartphone activities that are then transmitted to to third parties. In another case, a food-delivery app recorded some video of a user’s activity and shared the video with a data-analytics firm; the customer may not have been aware this was taking place.
The best way to protect yourself is to see what permissions you have given to each app. Here’s how:
On an iPhone, go to Settings > Privacy > Scroll down to a category such as Camera >Find a list of apps with permission to use your camera and withdraw access.
On an Android phone, go to Settings > Apps > Scroll down and click on a specific app > Next screen will show you what permissions that app has > Turn them on or off.
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About the Author: Aisha K. Staggers is a writer, lecturer, political analyst and literary agent. She appears weekly for “Staggers’ State of Things” on the Dr. Vibe Show. Her work has been published by Paper Magazine, AfroPunk, The Spool, GREY Journal, MTV News, HuffPost, Blavity, Atlanta Blackstar, For Harriet, New York Review of Books and a host of other first-run publications and syndicated outlets. Find her on Twitter @AishaStaggers. For more of her work, check out her page here!