Are you concerned that your iPhone might be listening to your conversations? It’s a reasonable worry, as our smartphones have become extensions of ourselves.
We rely on them for staying connected with friends, shopping, streaming entertainment, and, more recently, for assistance with everyday tasks.
But are these devices always listening to our conversations and tracking our activities? This guide will discuss whether or not iPhones are eavesdropping on us and how we can protect our privacy.
How to tell if Your iPhone is Listening to you…
Every smartphone these days has a microphone built-in. And they should all warn you when the microphone is in use.
On your iPhone, a small orange dot appears on the top right of your screen when the microphone is in use. The orange dot means that the microphone is active and an app is using it.
Why Would an App Need to Use My Microphone?
Apps that use your microphone need to access it to provide a service. For example, suppose you’re using an app like Shazam. In that case, it needs to listen and identify what music is playing in the background.
Similarly, voice recognition apps like Siri or Google Assistant need access to your microphone to understand and respond to your requests.
Do Companies Use My iPhone Microphone to Serve Me Relevant Ads?
Apple, Google, and Facebook have denied that their apps can use your microphones to serve you ads.
Facebook has said that it blocks advertisers from serving ads based on microphone data.
Apple and Google’s App Developer Policies also say that apps can’t violate your privacy by using audio from your microphone.
Reports of Microphone-Based Ads
Despite the companies’ denials, many people on the internet shared stories about talking about something just before a related ad appeared.
This could be purely coincidental. But, more likely, if they were talking about it, at some point, they may have searched for it, clicked a link, or viewed a web page about the topic.
Then, they forgot that their speaking about the topic wasn’t the first time they signaled their iPhone about their interest.
Advertisers have also gotten really good at drawing conclusions about you based on your previous search history. If you’ve been looking at fitness sites, stock quotes, and clicking on old TV shows that indicate you’re a baby boomer… Google Ads might figure out that you’re the kind of person who might want to buy a Mercedes. Whamo… A Mercedes ad pops up just after you tell your wife it might be time for a new car.
What Can You Do About It?
Personally, I wouldn’t worry about companies using my microphone data. So, I wouldn’t do anything about it. I don’t believe companies are using my microphone audio to serve me ads.
And if they were, fine. Let them show me an ad for something they think I’d like. I’m OK with that.
But if the idea of anyone listening in on your iPhone microphone creeps you out, you can always just shut it off.
You won’t get the convenience of using Siri or any other apps that use your microphone unless you go back into your settings and turn the microphone back on.
Turn Off Siri
If you want to disable Apple’s Siri from listening to your iPhone’s microphone…
1) Open Settings
2) Tap “Siri & Search”
3) Turn off “Listen for Hey Siri”
4) Turn off “Press Side Button for Siri”
5) Turn off “Allow Siri When Locked”
6) When the pop-up asks you to confirm, Tap “Turn Off Siri”.
Disable Microphone on Apps
You can also turn off the microphone on any apps you don’t want to access your microphone. Unfortunately, there isn’t a global “Microphone” off setting. So, you’ll have to disable your microphone on each individual app.
1) Open Settings
2) Scroll down to an App that uses your Microphone (Like Snapchat).
3) Switch off the “Microphone” option.
Next time you use that app, you may get a warning that your microphone is disabled.
It is important to know what apps can access your microphone and why they need the data.
While some anecdotal stories of companies using microphone data for ads have been reported, Apple, Google, and Facebook have all denied that their apps can use audio from your microphone to serve you ads.
But if you don’t want Siri or any other app to be able to use your microphone, you can easily turn off the microphone in your iPhone Settings.
What do you think?
Let me know in the comments if you’re concerned about your iPhone Microphone being used to serve you ads.
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