Have you ever discussed something with co-workers, friends, family members, or your partner, only to discover an ad for it being shown to you on your phone while you’re browsing social media? There is a bit of a conspiracy where there are some who believe that our phones are listening in on our conversations.
Social media platforms have denied doing this, and there are some who speculate that maybe it’s because when we discuss certain things, we might search for it online and in turn create a cookie trail that leads to these types of targeted ads. But it turns out that maybe the conspiracy theorists might be right, according to a report from 404 Media.
The publication claims to have reviewed marketing materials by Cox Media Group, in which apparently they were pitching a product called “Active Listening” which claims it can listen to conversations through the microphones embedded in our phones, TVs, smart speakers, and more.
From there, it can analyze the conversations people are having and then allow companies to pitch products or services in the form of ads to these people. For example, if you were talking about planning for retirement, it could then be used to display ads for financial planning services, and so on.
It is unclear if this “Active Listening” tool actually works as intended or if it is currently in use, but if it’s true, it’s kind of disturbing. That being said, both iOS and Android do display status indicators whenever a phone’s microphone or location is being used, which means that in theory users should know when they’re being listened to, unless somehow this tool has figured out a way to bypass that.
Make what you will of this report, but if whistleblowers like Edward Snowden have taught us anything, it’s that there’s probably a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes that the public might not be aware of.
Source: 404 Media