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  • Writer's pictureBig Rick Stuart

Just How Much Does Your Phone Listen to Sell You Targeted Ads?

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Have you ever been talking about something with a friend, only to receive an ad for the same thing later? It makes you wonder whether your phone is listening to you and what you can do to stop it. But just how much do our phones spy on us?

Is your phone listening to your conversations?

The short answer is yes, your phone is listening to you, but not always maliciously. Most of the time, when you get an ad for something you haven’t searched for, it’s not because your phone heard you talk about it. The truth is that AI is almost just as good at connecting dots.

Everything you do online—from liking a photo, to watching a video, to following an account—leaves a record, and apps like Facebook collect all that data to send ads. In many cases, they use AI to connect data points to determine what you like, even if that’s something you haven’t clicked on before. And since data-mining companies sell their information, and apps have access to so much of our personal data, companies can interpret us pretty well even without explicitly listening.

How to stop your phone from listening

If you want, you can stop your phone from listening if you want to take more control over your privacy. On iOS, open your Settings, then go to Siri & Search. Switch off “Listen for ‘Hey Siri’,” “Press Side button for Siri” and “Allow Siri When Locked,” and your phone will stop listening.

On Android, open Settings, then go to “Google,” then “Account Services,” then “Search, Assistant & Voice.” From there, tap “Voice” and switch off “Hey Google.” After that, your phone will no longer listen in the background.

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