A group of computer science academics at the Northeastern University have found a whole new explanation for how you are seeing ads, for say a restaurant you were just talking about to your friend.
According to a report by the Gizmodo, researchers ran an experiment on over 17,000 popular apps on Android to find out if they were secretly hearing your conversation through your phone. These apps included those belonging to Facebook as well as 8000 apps sending information to the tech giant.
Their research revealed no instance of apps recording your conversation, or remotely triggering the microphone to record audio. However, they also did not deny that recording could be happening. One thing that was noticed, however, was apps recording your on-screen activity and sending that information to third-parties. They came to the conclusion when apps asked users if they can have access to your camera and microphone, over 9,000 apps were allowed to do so.
The researchers ran an experiment using an automated program to interact with these apps. Though the automated programs could not interact the way humans do, they did notice that screenshots and video recordings of what it was doing was being sent to third-parties.
The research gave an example of GoPuff delivery which was sending user interaction with the app to AppSee, a mobile analytics company. While AppSee and GoPuff are reportedly denying their part in the scheme of things, Google Play Store said that AppSee may not be at fault entirely since some part of its services require user information which may be putting its developers at risk when it comes to Play Store’s guidelines.
While it is still not certain if phones listen to your conversations, it is now clear that they might be creepily looking through your phone activity to understand which ads third parties must target at you. As per the researchers, it is slightly shocking how people are not aware that their activity is being monitored by analytics companies.