Smartphones are eavesdropping as we fall victim to sonic snooping, say experts

Smartphones are listening to people’s conversations in order to tailor adverts on social media and websites to their interests, experts fear.

A recent study found nearly half of Brits worry they have been targeted by ‘sonic snooping’ – where ads for goods and services pop up on phones soon after a person talks about them or they are discussed on TV.

Cybersecurity specialists NordVPN reckon their fears could be true due to apps using phone’s microphone to work out what they are interested in – using a method called cross-device tracking.

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Adrianus Warmenhoven, a cybersecurity adviser, believes the creepy method is a goldmine for advertisers and allows them to ‘’gather a lot of information about you, all without your knowledge’’.

He said: ‘’It’s tricky to say how often smartphones are eavesdropping on your private conversations – but the technology is certainly in place to do it.’’

Cross-device tracking sees smart technology such as TVs and laptops secretly communicating with each other using ultrasonic waves – which are too high to be heard by the human ear and reveal our location and what we are doing.

Smartphones, tablets and laptops then hone in on the signals through microphones and use the data to show us relevant adverts.

Mr Warmenhoven added it is not possible to stop your smart home devices from emitting these ultrasonic waves, but a way to protect against unwanted tracking is to not grant apps permission to access smartphone microphones.

A survey found 45% of people had noticed an advert on their phones for a product or service, which they had not searched for but had recently spoken about or seen on TV.

Half of respondents of the survey, which was conducted on more than 1,000 people in the UK, said this made them feel as though they were being followed.

One in eight said it made them feel scared and two-thirds of those affected said they did not know how to stop it from happening to them.

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As part of an experiment for the research, members of NordVPN staff chatted about topics that none had ever shown an interest in with their phones nearby.

One man who took part discussed buying a new Volvo car despite having never owned a motor, shown interest in doing so, or searched for the brand online.

He was later flooded with Volvo ads on his smartphone.

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