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Think Your Smartphone’s Eavesdropping On Conversations? It Doesn’t Need To!
Have you ever noticed an ad showing something you were just talking about to a friend? If yes, then surely you were left wondering if your smartphone is hearing everything you say. But is it actually listening? While it's fascinating how accurate the targeted ads are to your interests, it doesn't necessarily mean that your smartphone is listening to your conversations. It's very likely that you've already fed it with the information it requires to do so.
Everyone knows how quickly we accept the "allow cookies" pop-ups when we visit a website or download an app. And, when we do so, we open the doors for them to track our online activities. "First-party cookies" enables websites to use details about a user's interaction with the site. It's similar to login cookies that let users save the password to avoid entering it each time.
Creating Your Virtual Avatar For Targeted Ads
Third-party cookies, on the other hand, are created by domains that are not bound to just websites. These third parties are mostly marketing firms that join forces with first-party apps or websites. The first parties allow the former to access the data that has been collected from users.
This allows the advertiser to build a virtual profile of a user which estimates their lifestyle, needs, and other aspects. These firms track their product's popularity based on factors such as the user's gender, age, weight, height, occupations, and other things. By classifying this information, the targeted ads are pushed.
While this sounds simple, there are a lot of complex artificial intelligence (AI) processes such as data clustering and reinforcement learning (RL) happening in the background. An RL tool is capable of training itself based on the user's interaction.
Factors That Drive Data Collection
Ads can also be based on other data such as the ads you previously clicked on, or from personal details provided on a platform. It can also be based on the user's likes or groups on a platform.
It doesn't stop there; these AI algorithms also push ads on the basis of the data collected from your friends or people you interact with the most. For instance, Facebook could recommend you stuff that your friends on the same platform have purchased. While app providers should be transparent about the data collection, it's also the duty of users to be wary of apps that ask permission for data collection.
Think Twice Before Sharing Personal Information
If you feel the need to limit the data collected from you, there are a few things that can be done. First and foremost, review the phone's app permission regularly. Besides, try avoiding logging into sites or services using your social media accounts.
Moreover, while sign up for services, remember to share only the required information, and you're still skeptical about the privacy, then using a VPN is highly recommended. This will let you keep your IP address hidden and won't leave any trace of your online activities.