READ ALSO -> How to tell if your cell phone is being spied on
Are we all profiled?
The big tech companies keep track of the activity carried out by users on their sites and, through special cookies, they can extend this tracking also on the other sites we visit or on the searches we carry out from other workstations or from other devices.
None of us fully suspect how extensive the tracking of commercial sites can be: if we search for a pair of shoes on Google (even just the images) we do not expect the same pair of shoes to be recommended to us on Amazon or Facebook. that we never looked for those shoes on these sites!
The truth is that each of us has a own well-defined Internet profile (ID), a completely anonymous alphanumeric string that can be easily associated with a specific user. All the searches we make on Google end on this profile, all the videos we open on YouTube, all the profiles we open on social networks, all the likes, the Likes we put on photos or places on social media, all the videos we see on TikTok and preferences on how we set up the browser or phone.
The advent of increasingly precise algorithms and neural networks has done the rest: apps and websites therefore do not necessarily know our name and surname, but they can know in advance what we like based on our tastes, based on our research and based on our recent purchases, guessing what we need or what we want even before we realize it.
From a legal and privacy point of view, everything is in order, at least for large commercial sites: the ID of each of us is anonymous, so we are just an alphanumeric string that cannot be directly associated with us but which, once installed on our phone or on our PC, identifies us on all websites, whatever we do.
While all of this can be scary, you just need to know that both Google and other companies offer full control over privacy settings, limiting the sharing of information with third-party sites and also blocking the use of specific traceability: in this case we will have less personalized ads or advice.
Is the phone’s microphone always on and spying on us?
On modern phones, the microphone is often always listening in order to be able to listen to the command of the voice assistants such as Google Assistant, Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa. This is often seen as a privacy-damaging tool, but on balance it is not: all information recorded by voice assistants can only be used to improve assistant accuracy, kept only for a certain period of time and, very importantly, each user can decide to delete them, prevent their use to improve the service or decrease the amount of time to keep conversations.
From this point of view, both Google and Amazon offer pages dedicated to the privacy of voice assistants, without forgetting that we can always deactivate Google Assistant e Apple Siri on our phones.
How to check microphone permissions
Except for voice assistants any apps or services we run on the phone must ask for permission to use the microphone, with a warning in the center of the screen and an icon at the top when the microphone is on and able to record.
If we notice the appearance of the microphone icon or we are asked for permission to use the microphone, we must be extremely careful: if the app is reliable (such as for example ZOOM, WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype, Google Duo or others) we can also authorize the microphone; if the app is a game or an app that does not offer voice services, the microphone access permission is very suspicious and should be blocked.
Do the home automation speakers spy on us?
What to do instead with home automation speakers like Google Nest e Amazon Echo, increasingly used in Italian homes?
For them to work, the microphone must always be on, but nothing prevents you from turning off the microphone at any time (by pressing the appropriate button) and from changing the privacy settings for all voice recordings made with them, as seen in our dedicated article. to Amazon Alexa.
Summing up we can say that modern phones do not need to keep the microphone on all the time in order to find out what we like or want, given that the profiling carried out by all commercial apps is more than enough to find out in full autonomy what we like and what we would be willing to buy (which is very important these days).
Paradoxically, we can also always keep the microphones of our phones closed and sealed (perhaps also deactivating the voice assistants) and in any case receive banners, messages, emails and announcements of what we talked about a few days ago, since in fact an algorithm predicted (with good accuracy) what we want to buy.
To be spied on, it is therefore always necessary to authorize some on our phone spying app (perhaps without our knowledge), otherwise there is no telephone that “spies” us in the broad sense of the term.