Researchers find no evidence that Android apps eavesdrop, but some do spy on you

Researchers find no evidence that Android apps eavesdrop, but some do spy on you
Researchers at Northeastern University conducted some tests to see whether your phone is secretly listening to your words in order to serve you ads that you would be interested in. Looking at the media files sent out by 17,260 apps in the Google Play Store, the researchers found no evidence that your phone is eavesdropping on your conversations. This was done using ten Android handsets running an automated program (see image at the top of this article), although there were some limitations. For example, the program couldn't create usernames and passwords to sign into an account.

What brought this up was an article in Vice that was written by someone who did a five day experiment looking for a connection between words he said, and the ads he received on his handset. According to the article, the author talked about "going back to uni" and "needing cheap shirts" before ads appeared on his phone for university classes and shirts. Considering that the experiment consisted of only two attempts a day over five days, there is certainly nothing scientific about it. And ads that the author claims never to have noticed before just might have appeared on his phone at earlier times. Can you remember every ad that has graced the display of your mobile device?

What the researchers at Northeastern did discover is that some apps are video recording what is on the screen of your phone and sending that image to a third party. For example, a junk food delivery app called goPuff used a service from mobile analytical firm Appsee to record its users' interaction with the app. The video was then analyzed by Appsee.


At first, goPuff failed to put up a disclaimer to alert visitors to its app that their interaction was being recorded. But after hearing from the researchers, goPuff added to its privacy policy that "Appsee" might receive users PII." In addition, the company removed the Appsee SDK from the latest iOS and Android builds of the goPuff app. Appsee blames goPuff, and says that its technology was misused by the app, resulting in a ToS violation.

GoPuff states that it used Appsee to help it optimize its website. And that very well could be true. But the news here is that your phone doesn't need to eavesdrop on what you're saying in order to spy on you. It can simply record what actions you are taking.



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19 Comments

1. lyndon420

Posts: 6737; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Facebook? Hello...you're listening yes?!

2. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3123; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Androids aren't the only spies. My wife and I both have iPhones and I know for a fact they're spying. I mentioned one day to her that I needed to replace the cover for our barbeque and 10 minutes later I received an email from Target with, wait for it, a 15% off coupon on...…...grill covers!!! She totally freaked in the truck on the way to Home Depot. She always thought I was subscribing to conspiracy theories. Now she wants her old BlackBerry Bold back.

5. AmashAziz

Posts: 2898; Member since: Jun 30, 2014

iPhones spy on you. I get that.

8. andynaija

Posts: 1255; Member since: Sep 08, 2012

Did you ever search for grill covers in your browser first, before you got the email?

10. Venom

Posts: 3410; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

I think pops forgot that part.

18. andrewc31394

Posts: 290; Member since: Jun 23, 2012

i wouldn't be surprised if he never searched for grill covers in his life and this still happened. that's the creepy part about siri or google assistant being always on

11. Venom

Posts: 3410; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

No way, Target advertising grill covers, in the summer, right around the 4th of July? Next thing you know, you're going to be talking about them sending you an email in October for fall and Halloween stuff. The point here is that both events are mutually exclusive. No need to be that paranoid over an email.

13. mixedfish

Posts: 1551; Member since: Nov 17, 2013

Better keep a gun under the bed.

17. yalokiy

Posts: 954; Member since: Aug 01, 2016

Could be a coincidence.. My colleague has a friend in china. He doesn't have a facebook account, but he was searching for tickets to that city in China. Next day I get facebook ad in my feed with tickets to exactly that city in China.. I didn't ever search for it, we only discussed it offline.

3. Nimbus

Posts: 442; Member since: Apr 02, 2018

Very complicated worded,phrases article on this subject alan,took me many trial to understand this information and still struggling to comprehend with details what its mean to say precisely.I think u didn't written the article information on this subject very well.practice more so that other non english & weak english readers can get it well as ur audience readers.

7. lyndon420

Posts: 6737; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Painful. Hard your comments read to. Now headache much.

4. ahmadkun

Posts: 566; Member since: May 02, 2016

I feel sorry for those people who spend time and spy on me .. *NOTHING* usful

6. Plasticsh1t

Posts: 3100; Member since: Sep 01, 2014

They can spy on my porn collection.

9. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1318; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

What's the difference between eavesdropping and spying?

14. Alan01

Posts: 602; Member since: Mar 21, 2012

Eavesdropping is listening on conversations not intended for you. Spying could include eavesdropping, but includes other things such as recording your screen. Alan

12. Venom

Posts: 3410; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

Of course they spy on you. Google spys on you. Facebook spys on you. Smartphones are going to leave a digital footprint. That's why you have to be a little proactive with what you share with apps and what permissions you allow them to have.

16. lyndon420

Posts: 6737; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

Don't forget about debit cards. At least we still have cash...for the time being.

15. Aircrackng

Posts: 56; Member since: Jan 09, 2015

Once i put a seashell towards my ear and i heard the ocean nothing is safe anymore!!

19. two_soggy_waffles

Posts: 58; Member since: Aug 10, 2017

but im not dat fun to spy onz

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