I’m a mobile expert and your phone IS listening to you when you’re not using it – how to stop it

SMARTPHONES can eavesdrop on what’s being said in your surroundings, but not in the way you think.

It’s one of the secrets behind how adverts for certain products appear on your phone after you’ve them on the TV.


Luckily, there are a handful of ways to limit your exposure – it all lies in your device’s privacy settingsCredit: Alamy

Researchers at NordVPN found that some companies use so-called ultrasonic beacons in their ads.

They are sounds so high-pitched that they can’t be heard by human ears.

But they can be picked up by smart devices like phones or laptops.

So, when an advert appears on the TV, there could be a hidden noise also playing – but at a frequency you can’t hear.

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While the ad plays, your phone’s microphone will listen to the beacons – if it has the right permissions switched on in the device’s settings.

“You pick up the phone, go on social media, and see the same ad you’ve just seen on TV. Coincidence? No, just highly advanced and elaborate marketing,” NordVPN explained in the report.

Cross-device tracking is a marketing strategy that follows users across their phones, smart TVs, tablets, and personal computers.

Marketers use this method to help understand the behaviour of the average consumer, to eventually target them more effectively.

But cross-device tracking has been questioned by a number of cybersecurity experts over its lack of transparency and privacy.

Luckily, there are a handful of ways to limit your exposure – it all lies in your device’s privacy settings.

Adrianus Warmenhoven, a cybersecurity adviser at NordVPN, has advised tech users to review their app permissions in the settings of their devices.

Reading through the policies of the apps you download can also be helpful to figure out how much of your privacy you are signing away when installing.

“While it’s impossible to stop the ultrasonic beacons working, you can reduce the chance of your smartphone listening for them by simply restricting unnecessary permissions you have granted to the apps on your device,” said Warmenhoven.

Alternatively, people can use a VPN – also known as a virtually secure network – which masks your IP address and hides your internet activity.

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