Your smartphone isn’t always listening, but it could well be watching you


Your smartphone isn't always listening, but it could well be watching you

Somewhere someone is watching you order pizza

FIRST, HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS: Your smartphone isn’t eavesdropping on you.

Yep, the idea that muttering “must buy toilet rolls” in earshot of your device will lead it to serve up endless ads for Cushelle has been finally quashed.

Nevertheless, if you’ve ever had a gut feeling that your phone could be spying, you might want to sit down.

A group of researchers from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts have found that, in a year-long study of 17,260 apps on the Play Store, none show any evidence of gathering and saving sound data. Phew.

Screengrabs, it says, are a different matter. The apps, which include Facebook’s own bouquet and a number of apps known to report to the social network, weren’t being monitored for screen recording, but as it turns out, 9,000 have permission for camera access.

Gizmodo points to several apps like GoPuff, a Just-Eat type malarky where your action on the site when hunger strikes is grabbed and the recording sent to Appsee, a mobile analytics specialist.

The main issue here is about permission. Appsee isn’t mentioned in the GoPuff Privacy Policy, yet it openly admits off the record that the data gets shared.

The difficulty is that Appsee and GoPuff are still arguing about whose fault it was.

Google has said that it’s a little from column A and a lot from column B, but it still doesn’t fully calm the nerves of those of us who really don’t want our activity recorded – especially without permission.

The repercussions are potentially huge – if a legitimate app can do this without you ever knowing, then how exactly is a rogue actor going to be stopped from spying or injecting malicious code into the site? One doesn’t necessarily garner the other of course, but it’s another example of things that should be crystal and they’re ruddy well not.

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Last year, phone maker Blu was accused of recording waaaay too much customer data for no discernible reason. They later backtracked. μ



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