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Many people believe that our smartphones spy on us through our microphones, but this notion is false, but that doesn’t change the fact that they might actually be taking screenshots of some of our in-app activities.
People tell spooky stories of how they mention things in real-life conversations and they start seeing related ads on their smartphones. Could it be that Facebook is listening to our conversations, or can Instagram hear everything we talk about?
At Northeastern University, Massachusetts, some researchers wanted to see how true this theory is, that’s if our smartphones are truly spying on us – the discovery they made is quite shocking.
They found out that our mobile devices are not listening to us but it is highly likely they are taking videos and screenshots of our in-app activities.
Gizmodo revealed that some computer scientists at Northeastern University conducted a study of more than 17,000 android apps to determine if our mobile phones are always listening, as the theory seems Twilight Zone-like.
The fact is that they didn’t find conclusive evidence that our smartphones are recording us through our microphones. However, the researchers also found no evidence to the contrary within the year they carried out their study of any mobile app activating the phone’s microphone without first being prompted to do so.
But an unexpected discovery was made – the researchers noticed something a bit creepy while studying these 17,000+ mobile apps. Although, there was no audio recording sent to any third party from the 9,000+ apps that were given permission to access a smartphone’s camera and microphone, screenshots and video of the activity of users were sent to third-party domains.
Some of the screenshots sent included pages where user addresses and personal information were being entered into the app.
The researchers revealed that this information was sent to certain mobile analytics companies such as Appsee, which publicly discloses that it takes in-app data of people to send to companies solely for research purposes. The researchers further disclosed that some mobile apps don’t notify their users that they’re recording their information and activity.
If the wrong hands were to get a hold of this information, passwords, private messages, and tons of personal information could end up being at risk of being stolen and/or hacked.
While conducting the study, an automated program was used rather than actual human activity and this could have really impacted the results. Also, for the larger part of the study, the phones were isolated and this means there wasn’t really anyone around to listen to.
So whether apps record and track conversations or not, they are still collecting information from users. Whether through photos, videos, screenshots, or simply reviewing your activity history, third parties can and do collect information to tailor targeted ads.