Some smartphone games are listening to what your mic picks up — but not to hear what you say. Instead, they’re trying to hear what you’re watching.
This is something smartphone apps have been doing for a little while now: using microphone access to tell what shows you watch, which ads you hear, and even what movies you see. But a report in The New York Times last week shows the practice may be more prevalent — and more secretive — than consumers might like.
The Times says that it identified more than 250 games on the Google Play Store that include just one specific type of software for monitoring users’ TV habits. It’s from a company known as Alphonso, and the apps that include it — the ones that disclose it, at least — often don’t make what they’re doing particularly clear. Most apps seem to hide their disclosure in their description, beneath a “read more” button.
If you miss that initial warning, you might not know what you’re getting into once you open the app. One game we installed, Endless 9*9 puzzle by Imobile Game Studios, immediately asked for location and microphone access, without explanation. The app did disclose that it was tracking “TV viewership details” in order to “show you TV related content and ads,” but only if you went into the game’s settings. Users didn’t have to proactively agree.
As the Times points out, the Federal Trade Commission has warned companies about this behavior in the past. In 2016, it told a dozen Android app developers using similar software, called SilverPush, that users need to be notified of what type of information their apps are collecting and why it’s being collected.
Submitted by: Arnfried Walbrecht