VERIFY: Is your phone listening to you?

Verify: Is your cell phone listening to what you say?

Have you ever had the feeling your phone was listening to you? Like, you have a conversation about a certain brand and then later you're served up an ad about that brand?

We wanted to know if that actually happens. To find out, we checked with these sources: the "High-Tech Texan" Michael Garfield, University of Houston information systems professor Dr. Chris Bronk, the Federal Trade Commission and Facebook.

So, between Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant, there are many ways you can tell your phone what to do – because it can hear and understand you.

“I want you to think about it, every time you ask for Siri or say ‘Ok, Google,’ it listens to us,” Garfield said.

Google invented and owns the patent to this listening technology. We looked at company policy and says its systems are not listening until you say ‘Okay, Google’ or press a button to activate the microphone.

“The phone is not listening to your conversation to serve up ads,” Bronk said. “Could it be subverted? Yes.”

The Federal Trade Commission warned app developers that they must let users know if their phone might be listening in. Facebook says it does not use phone microphones for ads or news feed stories.

So, there is currently no information to prove your phone is listening in on your conversations.

But if you’re worried, you can revoke access to your phone’s microphone and camera for specific apps.

Here’s how to do that:


Open Settings, tap on Privacy and tap on Microphone.

To turn off permission, slide the switch to the left next to any app you want to restrict.
It should turn gray.

Go through the same process for the Camera permissions.


Open Settings and select Applications or Application Manager (this could look different depending on your particular phone).

Select which app you want to update, and in the app's menu select Permissions.

To turn off a permission, slide the switch to the left until it turns gray.

VERIFY: Sources

• Dr. Chris Bronk, Information Systems Professor at the University of Houston

• Michael Garfield, the High-Tech Texan

Federal Trade Commission



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