HALF OF INDIAN SMARTPHONE USERS ARE SEEING ADS BASED ON THEIR PERSONAL PHONE CONVERSATIONS

Imagine this-you’re speaking to your friend and planning a trip to Goa or thinking of buying that latest sneaker over a call. Suddenly, you are inundated with advertisements about holiday packages in Goa or the different discounts that different shopping platforms offer on those sneakers. Sounds familiar? Well, you aren’t the only one.

If you have seen an ad in your email box or via SMS based on your smartphone conversation with your wife or a colleague, don’t get shocked as a survey revealed on Wednesday that nearly half of all Indian smartphone users have confirmed seeing ads based on their private voice conversations.

About 53 percent of citizens said they had had one or more instances in the last 12 months where they saw advertisements on the web or some social media app based on phone conversations, according to a survey by community social media platform LocalCircles.

The results also indicated that most Indian smartphone users had microphone access to their handsets for audio/video calls to various social media apps and audio recording third-party apps.

“A large number of people have been raising the issue of seeing contextual advertisements post their private phone conversations, which is very concerning,” said Sachin Taparia, Founder of LocalCircles.

“Such practices must be investigated, and any apps requiring microphone access must be required to give clear declarations of where a user’s information will be used and seek explicit consent,” he added.

The Indian government is yet to approve the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, aimed to provide legislative and statutory protection to users’ or citizens’ personal information and recognize protecting the data of individuals as their right.

LocalCircles said it would share the survey findings with the IT Ministry, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), and the RBI for necessary action.

“If this is not done at the earliest, such access could easily lead to financial frauds and people’s personal information getting compromised with no accountability of how it happened,” Taparia said.

Among those who had such an experience, 28 percent said it happens all the time, 19 percent said it had happened several times, and 6 percent said it had happened a few times.

Only 24 percent of citizens said that it has never happened, while 23 percent did not have an opinion.

About 84 percent of smartphone users admitted to having given their contact list access to WhatsApp, 51 percent had given access to Facebook Messenger, Instagram, or both, and 41 percent had given access to caller information apps like Truecaller.

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