How Smartphone’s mic is used to track users TV viewing habits

A recent finding claims that some apps on both Play Store and Apple App Store running software from a company called Alphonso is using the smartphone’s microphone to listen for audio signals in TV ads and programs.

According to Apptopia, an app intelligence firm, there are over 106 apps on Google Play and 24 on the App Store using Alphonso software, which sometimes connect users movie viewing habits to places they visit.

While most of the apps were games and aimed at children, that listen for audio signals emitted by the TVs in order to track their viewing habits.

The tracking technology is akin to Silverpush’s software that the FTC had red-flagged in 2016, which it alerted app developers that they could be in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, And also accused them of collecting or transmitting users TV data, without actually telling users that they were monitoring their TV viewing habits.

Alphonso’s software serves as another reminder to mobile users to be careful of what they install on their smartphone.

Smartphone users should to careful to review an app’s permissions – especially if it’s asking for unlikely access to other functions, such as a game that needs to turn on the phone microphone.

Apple and Google had long required applications to get user consent if it wants to tap into the microphone. And the iOS App Store even go as hard as providing a pop-up that enforces users to agree to the microphone usage.

It is recommended that users should check where they’ve consented to microphone use in apps. For iOS users, simply go to Settings, select Privacy > Microphone; and for Android, go to Apps & notifications –> App Permissions, then Microphone.
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1/21/2018 delete

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