Author Topic: Phones listening?  (Read 1416 times)

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Offline Harry Black

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Phones listening?
« on: December 09, 2018, 04:04:30 PM »
 I think this is an interesting one for skeptics due to the similarity to older tropes like "I was thinking about x and they phoned me!"
I was walking past a certain pharmacy yesterday and said to my buddy- Oh, pharmacy x do STI screens by post and you can order online.

That afternoon I had in browser ads for that very service.
It feels very compelling but Im predisposed to question that. Even though I have had loads of similar experiences about things I didnt google and would be quite random to talk about.
This is aside from the issue of keywords getting plucked from private emails i may send and resulting in immediate ads.
So I found this article:
https://www.vice.com/en_au/article/wjbzzy/your-phone-is-listening-and-its-not-paranoia
It doesnt seem to be as slam dunk as the author makes out but I am leaning toward this being quite plausible. And if it is, then what are the legalities of it?
How could it be co-opted or abused?
I dont think theres any way we as consumers can be empowered to fix it, so what would be a hardware solution?
Is a case that is soundproof but not signal inhibiting realistic?

Offline stands2reason

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2018, 04:52:34 PM »
If you think the microphone on your smartphone is the extent of the surveillance state...well, ignorance is bliss, as they say.

Offline Harry Black

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2018, 05:09:11 PM »
If you think the microphone on your smartphone is the extent of the surveillance state...well, ignorance is bliss, as they say.
I didnt say that at all.
This is a very specific question about a very specific thing.

Offline John Albert

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2018, 05:28:55 PM »
I've seen this happen to one of my coworkers. We were at lunch joking around about crazy pipe-dream home improvement projects we'd love to undertake if we had beaucoup money. 

About 2 hours later I was back at my desk, and he sent me a screenshot of a targeted ad that directly related to one of the fantasy projects he'd described.

Offline Rai

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2018, 01:23:15 AM »
The recently published Facebook emails show that  these corporations do have the means and ruthlessness to obtain presonal information without consent:

Quote
The emails seized by the UK Parliament also allege that Facebook thought about bypassing an Android permission screen that would ask for access to people's call logs, which would obviously be a strong violation of users' privacy. Here's a concerning email exchange between two Facebook executives from February 2015:

    "Hey guys, as you know all the growth team is planning on shipping a permissions update on Android at the end of this month. They are going to include the 'read call log' permission, which will trigger the Android permissions dialog on update, requiring users to accept the update. They will then provide an in-app opt in NUX for a feature that lets you continuously upload your SMS and call log history to Facebook to be used for improving things like PYMK, coefficient calculation, feed ranking etc. This is a pretty high risk thing to do from a PR perspective but it appears that the growth team will charge ahead and do it."

The reply is even worse:

    "The Growth team is now exploring a path where we only request Read Call Log permission, and hold off on requesting any other permissions for now.

    Based on their initial testing, it seems this would allow us to upgrade users without subjecting them to an Android permissions dialog at all. It would still be a breaking change, so users would have to click to upgrade, but no permissions dialog screen."


Of course they are listening. We need to have these monopolies broken up, jail a few hundred people and enact strict regulations that would actually be enforced.

Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2018, 01:40:35 AM »
There was a great episode of Reply All about exactly this.

In case you don't want to listen to the full 35 minute episode - and you should - the conclusion is basically as follows:

No, Facebook does not listen in on your conversations. At least, the corporation says that it doesn't, and there's no evidence that it does. But Facebook doesn't need to listen in on your conversations. Facebook has all the information it needs to produce the creepiest apparent coincidences without listening in on your conversations. Facebook knows your mother's favourite brand of perfume. It knows when she last bought some. It knows that her birthday is coming up, and that she's coming to visit you, and that she just had her perfume confiscated by the TSA. Guess what advertisement it shows you?

Here's an excerpt from the transcript:

Quote
ALEX: But then this really weird thing started to happen on Charles’ friend’s Facebook feed.

CHARLES: Which is that he saw- he started getting these like, these right-wing political ads that were like a little white supremacist. Like not really white supremacist, right? Because you can’t put white supremacist stuff on Facebook. But it was- it used a lot of the code words.

ALEX: Which freaked Charles’ friend out, because it’s not like he had ever expressed any interest in white supremacy or anything like that. So Thanksgiving rolls around, and he sees his brother-in-law, and he's like, "Hey, um, I've been getting all of this sort of like stuff that feels disconcertingly, to me, like white nationalist or sort of, like racist. And you're probably like the only conservative that I friend online. I'm wondering if you have any idea what this might be happening." And he was like, "Come outside. We need to talk."

PJ: What?

ALEX: And they go outside and he says listen, "I disavowed this, I'm not into it anymore. But for a couple of months last year, I was going to a lot of like white pride, white nationalism meetups."

PJ: What?

ALEX: Yeah, so one of the things that Facebook can do is if you like something, it can advertise that thing to your friends. So the brother-in-law obviously signaled to Facebook that he was into white supremacy somehow, and Charles’ friend was liking a lot of the guy’s posts, and they were friends on Facebook, so Facebook was like, "Alright, well, why don’t I advertise this white supremacist stuff to you."

PJ: Wow. That's wild. It’s like Facebook built a machine that just like as a side-effect outs white supremacists, but that’s not even like the point of the machine, like, they don’t care. Like, the whole point of it is just to like to learn things about you to sell you crap.

There's no evidence that Facebook listens in on conversations. And like I said, the Facebook corporation denies that they do it. But it sure seems like it does sometimes.
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Offline Harry Black

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2018, 04:53:02 AM »
I dont know if its facebook but for me, that STI ad was very very weird.
Its a thing I havent googled in 4 years, and I dont know what information I could have given away that would give me that specific ad for the specific pharmacy chain I was discussing offering the specific service my friends and I discussed.

There are other instances which are just as uncanny.
Up until yesterday, I gave everyone who mentioned it the same answer as above but now Im doubting myself.
We do give our apps access to the things necessary to achieve this and Im not inclined to trust the word of the companies that own them.

But then I come back to evidence.
Argh!!!

Offline Rai

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2018, 05:12:53 AM »
I am 100% certain that facebook, google and the rest are spying on you in every possible way, with or without your consent. At this stage, their word means nothing.

The main thing I can recommend is to immediately delete the facebook app. You can access the platfrom through a browser, if you need to, and at this stage the app is basically spyware. Get rid of messenger and instagram as well, if you can. Whatsapp is also owned by them, so it is also suspect. Firefox has a great extension called Facebook Container that you should use, which prevents Facebook from accessing any data outside of its own browser tab. Also, stop posting and liking on Facebook. Whatever content you have on there will be there forever, to be sold and exploited (even after you delete it), but at least you can stop providing information.

I even thought of starting to randomly like stuff all over the platform, but that would probably be way too much work and too much time spent on that dystopian hellsite.

Google is so much harder to circumvent, though, unless you have an iphone. Sadly, android rules the mobile market and there aren't any alternatives.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2018, 09:32:22 AM by Rai »

Offline Ah.hell

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2018, 09:27:53 AM »
I am of a similar mind to Harry.  I don't know that I'm being spied on via my phone by various corporations, but it's entirely plausible, so maybe.   I think I will start using the firefox plug in mentioned by rai though. 
« Last Edit: December 10, 2018, 11:55:59 AM by Ah.hell »

Offline stands2reason

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2018, 09:59:21 AM »
Google is so much harder to circumvent, though, unless you have an iphone. Sadly, android rules the mobile market and there aren't any alternatives.

Not really. Most custom Android ROMs are released under a GNU license or similar, and they can't include proprietary intellectual property (so-called GApps such as the Play Store).

If you install a custom ROM like this, there will be no proprietary Google code on your device, only the AOSP code contributed by Google engineers.

Offline Billzbub

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2018, 11:44:19 AM »
Why not test it?  Select 10 esoteric topics for which it is possible to get adds and divide them randomly into 2 groups.  Spend 2 days talking about one group of them a couple of times a day near your phone, and don't mention the other group at all.  Track your ads from the beginning for 4 days, and tally the results.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2018, 06:19:52 PM »
I am 100% certain that facebook, google and the rest are spying on you in every possible way, with or without your consent. At this stage, their word means nothing.

I think you're being paranoid and over-reacting.
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Offline amysrevenge

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2018, 06:38:19 PM »
Why not test it?  Select 10 esoteric topics for which it is possible to get adds and divide them randomly into 2 groups.  Spend 2 days talking about one group of them a couple of times a day near your phone, and don't mention the other group at all.  Track your ads from the beginning for 4 days, and tally the results.

The problem is the confounding variables - like, maybe three of your friends coincidentally all had crazy nights and then follow-up STI tests within a couple of days of each other.  You don't know about it, but Facebook does.  Voila, STI advertising in your feed.
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Offline arthwollipot

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2018, 06:46:30 PM »
I dont know if its facebook but for me, that STI ad was very very weird.
Its a thing I havent googled in 4 years, and I dont know what information I could have given away that would give me that specific ad for the specific pharmacy chain I was discussing offering the specific service my friends and I discussed.

You may not have googled it, but one of your friends might have. That's enough. Facebook will give you ads based on the behaviour of your friends, as evidenced by the white-supremacist story I quoted from the podcast above.
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Offline Harry Black

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Re: Phones listening?
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2018, 07:00:17 PM »
I dont know if its facebook but for me, that STI ad was very very weird.
Its a thing I havent googled in 4 years, and I dont know what information I could have given away that would give me that specific ad for the specific pharmacy chain I was discussing offering the specific service my friends and I discussed.

You may not have googled it, but one of your friends might have. That's enough. Facebook will give you ads based on the behaviour of your friends, as evidenced by the white-supremacist story I quoted from the podcast above.
Its also highly unlikely that any of my friends would google that specific service from that specific provider and as I said, there have been numerous other, equally specific ads relating to stuff I had been discussing.

I do think it warrants looking into and maybe doing some tests as suggested above.

I find it weird that youtube STILL cannot predict the kind of videos I want to see despite me giving feedback on videos i dont want to see, literally every day, but they are so well able to send me targeted ads after the fact, for things Ive been speaking about or purchased in meat space.

 

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