As Americans’ increasing obsession with their smartphones deepens, companies are finding new and sneaky ways to take advantage. A new report from the German University Technische details a new way that companies are tracking users through Android applications. The cross-device tracking uses inaudible signals embedded in television ads that can be picked up by the microphone on a smartphone when a certain app is open on that phone. That allows the company to track a users' behavior on their phone. According to the report, some 234 different Android apps now utilize the audio signal detection technology.
Dr. Chris Bronk, cyber security expert at the University of Houston, isn't surprised by this latest trend in cyber-spying. He tells KTRH that nearly everything you do online or on your smartphone is tracked in some way. "There are arrangements between large social data companies--Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon--so that when you say something on Facebook about wanting something, you then get an Amazon ad," says Bronk.
Another way companies track you is through apps that allow you to post personal photos from your phone. "They can know when that photograph was taken, they can mine the metadata in the photographs, they can figure out who's in the photographs," says Bronk.
And it's not just businesses and companies trying to track people's behavior and habits. Spying technology is also being used increasingly by political campaigns. "If you can figure out who your potential voters are for a candidate, and then start sending them messages via their Facebook feed of 'you don't want to vote for Prop 1'...that's the kind of thing where I get really nervous," says Bronk. "And there's nothing illegal about that right now in the United States."
While there's no way to completely protect yourself from these techniques short of getting rid of your smartphone altogether, Bronk recommends being careful about which applications you install, and to pay special attention to what permissions they seek about access to your phone, photos, contacts, etc. "Most people tell me I don't really care about my privacy," says Bronk. "If you're flippant about your privacy, you're going to be a better target for hackers down the road."