The latest smartphones may have just gone up a notch in 'smartness'! And why do you think we say so? According to a report in the New York Times, some smartphone games are spying on sounds picked up by the microphone to hear what one’s watching on the TV in the room.
If the report is to be believed, this has been going on unnoticed for quite a while. The microphone is being accessed to tell what TV shows one watches and also what movies one is viewing. The report has also apparently highlighted that this practice is in fact very secretive.
Around 250 games on the Google Play Store are reportedly said to be using these tricks. These games have a particular thing in common — a software for monitoring TV habits of the user.
The report mentions a company named Alphonso, which is allegedly using this type of spying tool/software. There also appears to be some confusion regarding the exact functioning and the role of the said software. And surprisingly, most apps seem to hide this inclusion within the description.
For an example, a game, which was downloaded by the NYT for research purpose, Endless 9*9 puzzle, was under scrutiny. The game designed by Imobile Game Studios, which when downloaded, apparently asks for location and microphone access, which is strange for a game to do so.
The game developer has also reportedly agreed on tracking TV viewership details. The research has also revealed that the Federal Trade Commission had warned companies about the similar behavior in the past. The NYT has also stated that some of these apps continue to monitor a phone’s microphone even after they’re shut down. And while most of these apps appeared to be on the Android platform, the report also mentions that that some similar apps are seen Apple’s App Store as well. Both the alleged Apple and Google apps request for microphone access so users have to grant permission before the app can be used.
Conspiracy theories about apps functioning in such a creepy manner have always been discussed about. This method of ad targeting doesn’t seem to be an ethical way of analysing the audience behaviour. While developers and companies will find other methods to track user behaviour, Google and Apple need to help their respective users to avoid such privacy issues.