Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Your phone isn’t listening to you, researchers say, but it may be watching everything you do

A group of computer science academics ran an experiment that tested over 17,000 of the most popular Android apps in order to determine if any of them recorded audio from the phone’s microphone. Some of these apps were Facebook’s own and over 8,000 other apps capable of sending information to the social media platform. Out of the set of apps tested, more than half had permissions to access the device’s camera and microphone, according to the report, which would allow for any conversations one had whilst having the app opened to potentially be recorded. Using an automated program as a method of interacting with the apps on the devices, all of the traffic created was analyzed and the researchers determined that no audio files were sent to any third-party domains.

Researchers were quick to mention the limitations of the study and never made a definitive claim that your apps are never secretly listening to you. Since an automated system was used to test the apps, the results may be different from what a human would encounter. The automated system was also unable to sign into these apps and could have missed audio that was processed locally on the device.

But, the researchers did notice something else funky, according to Gizmodo. Several apps had taken video recordings and screenshots of what people were doing. These screenshots were then sent off to third-party domains.


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