Is My Phone Listening To Me?

Does this sound familiar? You’re at a café with a friend. Your phone is on the table next to you. Your friend mentions an amazing new product. It sounds interesting, so you think you’ll look into it later…but then you forget.

Is my phone listeningSoon after, an ad for the product pops up in your Facebook feed. You didn’t search for the product online, didn’t include it in a post, a text or email. You only ever mentioned it in a phone conversation or when your phone was nearby.

The first time this happens you probably just think it’s a coincidence. But when you receive more ads that are highly targeted to what you’ve only ever talked about you might start to wonder, “Is my phone listening to me?”.

Cue the creepy music.

Hey Google, could this really be happening?

After all, it’s not out of the realms of possibility.

  • Smartphones have a microphone and are programmed to act when we ask a question – think Google assistant, Alexa and Siri.
  • If you use these applications and your phone is on, it’s “listening” and ready to respond.
  • Experts argue the technology exists and the algorithms are sophisticated enough.
  • We know Google and Facebook collect data which they use to target ads.

But are they also listening in?

Computer says no

Google, Facebook and others say they are not listening to people’s conversations.

For one thing, gathering a constant stream of audio from so many phones would cost a great deal.

And, ultimately, they don’t need to listen to you. They already know you better than your nearest and dearest.

In a previous blog post on machine learning, I talked about how, by analysing 300 of your Facebook likes, an Artificial Intelligence enhanced algorithm can evaluate your character better than your partner.

And, Facebook likes are just the tip of the iceberg. Your status updates, photos you post or are tagged in, everywhere you’ve logged on and all your messenger conversations, even the ones you half typed, thought better of and deleted, all help paint a picture of you, your likes and dislikes.

Added to this, your clickstream is like a window into your stream of consciousness, and by analysing your browsing and purchase history, Google makes some spookily accurate guesses.

Big Brother is watching

By opting into the world of social media and online searches, we’ve opted out of an anonymous life.

Which shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Most of us know by now that you pay for free social media and internet browsers with your personal information.

So can I, as I suspect a lot of you do, still hear the creepy music?

Experts predict a ground swell of unease about online tracking will result in the rise of products and services to help us hide our activity. Until then, I’ve outlined several ways you can improve your online privacy in this blog post.

But, of course, there is an upside to all this.


Forget the tri-tones and dramatic swells of sound, if you run a business, there’s nothing at all creepy about Google’s astonishing foresight. In fact, it’s genuinely awesome!

Online Influence is a trusted Google partner, and by working with those nosy algorithms, our friendly team can help you target your advertising campaigns with almost pin point accuracy. Contact us to find out how we can help your business today.