Holy crap, your phone is legitimately stalking you

Cast your mind back a dozen years, and you’ll be transported to a completely different time.

A time when people used their phones to make calls and play Snake. A time when people didn’t bury their heads in their phones for upwards of three hours a day. A time when we all had a life… oops, did I say that?!

The iPhone was only invented 11 years ago, with the first one released in June 2007.


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Fast forward to today, and we’re all addicted to our tiny pocket computers, which is dangerous for a whole host of reasons.

Most critically, for this reason: your smartphone is stalking you. The rumours are true. Your phone is listening to you all the time and that should really freak us all out!

When journalist Sam Nichols did some digging, he discovered that our phones are storing and leveraging much of the data we provide them.

He interviewed senior security consultant for cybersecurity firm Asterisk, and former lecturer and researcher at Edith Cowan University, Dr. Peter Hannay, who confirms: “From time to time, snippets of audio do go back to [third-party apps like Facebook’s] servers, but there’s no official understanding what the triggers for that are.”

Apps like Facebook or Instagram could have thousands of triggers, according to Dr Hannay. For instance: an everyday conversation with a friend about wanting a new pair of jeans could be enough to activate it.

Companies like Facebook go to great pains to assure us they’re not using the data in this way, but how much trust are we really willing to throw behind these people?

Evidently, not much: Sam tried an experiment where, twice a day for five days, he said things near his phone like, “I’m thinking about going back to uni” and “I need some cheap shirts for work”.

“I carefully monitored the sponsored posts on Facebook… The changes came literally overnight. Suddenly I was being told mid-semester courses at various universities, and how certain brands were offering cheap clothing,” he says.

“A private conversation with a friend about how I’d run out of data led to an ad about cheap 20 GB data plans. And although they were all good deals, the whole thing was eye-opening and utterly terrifying.”

So there you have it, folks. Your smart phone is stalking you. It might be time to stow it safely in another room when not in use.

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