Smartphones have become an indispensable part of our lives, finding use not only in their primary communication function but also for a host of other activities extending as far as health monitoring on mobile apps.
As more people use their phones to access the internet, privacy concerns come to light. It just so happens that some apps on your smartphone could be secretly using your phone’s microphone and camera to spy on you and collect information for data monetization like targeted ads, etc.
We grant most of these apps access to our camera, location, microphone, contact list, etc., but some other apps do not seek this consent before turning these smartphone features into spy agents.
Imagine the spookiness of seeing blender advertisements all over your social media feeds and other engagements on the internet a while after talking to your friend on the phone about needing a new blender. Your guess is correct. Some app eavesdropped on your conversation and got marketing leads straight from source!
In 2018, over 250 apps on the App Store and Google Playstore were listening in for background audio through smartphone microphones, allowing these apps to figure out what people were watching or listening to, in order to serve up better-targeted advertisements.
There are simple steps that phone users can take to protect themselves from being spied upon and it starts from knowing which apps have permission to use your data.
How to find out what apps are using your device features
- Go to settings
- Select Apps
- Click on the three dots at the top right corner of your screen
- Select Permission manager
- Select which permission settings you’d like to examine; either call logs, camera permissions, microphone permissions
- Once you’re under a category, you can toggle the permission to Allow or Deny app access.
Apple users already have a new feature on iOS 14 that shows an indicator dot when an app begins to use the phone’s camera or mic when it shouldn’t.
- Go to settings
- Select privacy
- Select Microphone or Camera, depending on which you’d like to restrict access to
- toggle permission on/off for apps whose access you want to change
When going through the permissions manager, be sure that an app actually requires a particular data to work before giving it access. For instance, If you find an app that doesn’t record videos or post images and it has camera permission then do not give it access to your camera.