How many times has it happened to you when you're talking to a friend about an item, and then later in the day you get a targeted ad without even searching?
Targeted ads are advertisements that appear in your social media feeds or web browser, tailored to products or services that you have expressed interest in. These advertisements are usually shaped by your browsing habits, items you've searched for, online stores you've visited, or brands you follow on social media.
There is a concept called "behavioural advertising" in which your profile is built over time based on your internet activity. Behavioural advertising is a technique used by online advertisers to display targeted advertisements to consumers by collecting information about their browsing habits. Companies can bid on this information in order to target you with advertisements. Several types of data can be used, including Browsing a page of a website, time spent on the site, your location, or whether you used the same address when shopping online.
Siri was the first virtual assistant designed for the iPhone, launched by Apple in 2011. Siri was Apple's first virtual assistant for the iPhone, released in 2011. It paved the way for Alexa, Cortana, and a few other AI assistants. They are constantly listening to you and recognise you when you issue special commands, allowing you to call, text, ask questions, and control your device. As a result, we can confidently state that your phone is listening to you via the device's onboard microphone. It always listens to you so that it can hear your voice commands and assist you. However, things are not as simple as that. Apple chooses a small subset of Siri conversations at random to analyse in order to improve the service.
According to a 2019 report, Siri was sometimes mistakenly activated and recorded private matters, such as people discussing business or even talking to their doctors, all of which could then be passed on to contractors who were tasked with analysing the recordings. Apple apologised to its customers and promised to improve its policies and defaults in the future. However, Siri's situation isn't unique, as Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant use similar systems and default settings.
The topic of smart technology listening to user conversations is a controversial one. Big tech companies like Facebook and Google vehemently deny listening to our conversations to collect data and generate targeted ads.
Google has also previously admitted that its employees use Google Home smart speakers to listen to customer recordings. However, it claims that this is only to advance its voice recognition technology and improve the functionality of Google Assistant’s artificial intelligence technology.
When you use the virtual assistant, you agree to the terms and conditions of the service provider. For example, it is also legal to track your conversations with Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa for marketing purposes if you give consent in the Google Assistant settings. It only becomes illegal if the app is spying on you without your permission. That's why it's crucial to review the permissions you grant to various services and understand the various ways your phone is tracking you. If the photo editor you just downloaded requests access to your microphone, consider it suspicious as it may record your voice in the background and use this information for malicious purposes.
While your phone isn't actively listening in on your conversations, you do leave a significant trace of your identity online, which could explain why these ads are so accurate. Because technology is only getting smarter, it's always a good idea to be cautious. However, there isn't much to be concerned about. Unless you deal with highly sensitive, FBI-level information on a regular basis, the only people who have access to your data are advertisers who use automated tools to run more efficient campaigns. It's just one of the methods they're using to get to know their audience better–and it appears to be working!