Whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, Youtube or Tik Tok, you might know the feeling of scrolling past an ad or a sponsored post for a service or product that you were JUST talking about. It must mean that our phones are listening to us, right?
Well, not exactly… If you’re on social media, your phone doesn’t need to be listening to you. If you use google maps, your phone doesn’t need to be listening to you. If you use Spotify, your phone doesn’t need to listen to you.
The way that we use our phones in the modern-day offers such an overwhelming amount of information to companies and businesses. Online advertising and data collection are so sophisticated these days that there is no reason why the microphones on our smartphones would need to be recording and transcribing information to know what to sell us.
Is My Phone Listening to Me?
We use our smartphones for everything these days. We book appointments, we do online shopping, we socialise, we google answers to questions, we even get from A to B using our smartphones.
In this sense, our phones are listening to us. The apps and websites that we use on our smartphones certainly record our data and searches. Most websites enable cookies, meaning they give your computer information regarding what you’ve been searching, meaning that when you’re on another website that shows advertisements, an ad for the product on the website that you accepted cookies on could show up on your computer screen.
When we use google maps, our phones know where we are and what we’re near. When we use Facebook, our phones know when it’s our siblings birthday. When we use Whatsapp, our phones know when we send someone a link to a phone case we like.
Let’s look at an example. It’s your siblings birthday in 2 weeks and you go to visit them for their birthday.
You and your sibling are chatting away about this concert that they want to go to. Minutes later, you open your smartphone and see an ad for the concert your sibling was just talking about.
Coincidence? Well, sort of…
Facebook knows it’s your sibling’s birthday as they have that information gathered. Facebook also knows your location, and they’ve seen that you’ve arrived in your sibling’s area days before their birthday. If you’ve disabled location tracking on Facebook, they can still gather this information from Whatsapp if location privacy settings are turned on. Facebook knows that your sibling sent a friend a link for concert tickets. Because it’s nearly their birthday and they know you’re in their area and they know you must be looking for a present, they start to advertise things to you that they know your sibling has shown interest in. They know what your sibling has shown interest in by looking at the websites they’ve recently been on, and the links they’ve recently sent to people.
This might seem super freaky in the moment, and we might come to the conclusion that our devices are listening to us, but in reality, our smartphones just have access to an abundance of information regarding our friends, our location, our shopping habits and our searching habits.
The microphones on our smartphones don’t need to listen to us when they already have such a catalogue of information to use to advertise to you.
How Can I Protect My Data?
If you’re looking for ways to protect your online data, one of the most effective ways you can protect yourself is by using a VPN.
VPNs, otherwise known as Virtual Private Networks offer online privacy essentially by making you anonymous by creating a private network from a public internet connection. VPNs establish secure, encrypted connections to provide more privacy than a secured Wi-Fi hotspot. They mask your IP address so that your online actions are virtually untraceable.
While VPNs can be expensive (around £100 per year), internet privacy and security is growing in importance. Nowadays, online security is no different to needing insurance.
Luckily the steep bill doesn’t just offer you online security, but also a wider variety of online entertainment! Many VPN services connect you to a private network in a chosen country, meaning you can access streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube from different countries which offer different shows and movies.
How Can I Protect My Privacy?
One way that you can protect your privacy from wandering eyes is to use a screen protector with a privacy filter! These neat screen protectors are designed to protect your device from damage while simultaneously offering you privacy from anyone looking at your screen from the left or right.
Check out our collection of OptiGuard Glass Privacy screen protectors here, and be sure to use discount code GIMMEPRIVACY for 20% off!