Some apps on your phone may be recording and sharing your screen

Judy Cobb
July 8, 2018

It would be wrong to say that your phone is not listening you, partly because there are some scenarios not covered in the new job.

Thankfully, the researchers found phones don't record your conversations and send them to advertisers. From sleazy political apps gobbling up your social media data to apps illegally tracking children, there are all sorts of ways your phone can rat you out.

People have believed that their phones have secretly been listening to them to gather data for targeted advertising, building a myth that a bunch of computer science academics at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, made a decision to look into.

Experiments were conducted on over 17,000 popular Android apps to test whether or not any of them captured microphone audio without express permission from the user.

While some apps belonged to Facebook, around 8,000 others were capable of sending information to the social networking giant.

At no point did the researchers see an app activate the microphone to record a conversation or send an audio file without prompt. They kept a close eye on the type of files generated by the applications and whether they were sent to an unpredicted party. A team from Northeastern University found no evidence that your phone is responsible for serving up targeted ads. While such a scenario did not come to pass during the time of research using automated mechanisms, a different scenario is possible with human users.

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In their research paper, they highlight the concerning findings.

For the previous year, researchers at Northeastern University and the University of California, Santa Barbara, have been experimenting on 17,000 of the most popular Android apps to figure out whether any of them are secretly using your phone's microphone to record you.

At the bottom of it all, unauthorized screen recording activities of companies like Appsee still violates the privacy of users and greatly poses risks to breaches. The app had no mention of this functionality in its privacy policy. After being contacted by the researchers, GoPuff updated its privacy policy to specifically mention Appsee being handed over Personally Identifiable Information (PII). However, AppSee claims that GoPuff should have informed its end-users way beforehand that its data was recorded and sent to us for analytical and performance optimisation purposes.

In conclusion, mobile applications might not be listening in on what you say, they are watching every decision you make on a smartphone screen.

The screenshots, also called "full-session replay technology", gives developers or third parties an unfiltered look at what users are doing while engaging with an app. Lo and behold, an ad pops up as you're mindlessly scrolling through your Instagram feed trying to sell you discount flights to Havana - and this is before you've done any online research into the trip.

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