No, your phone won’t listen to you to serve you ads. So what’s going on then?

“This is a question I get asked all the time.” Cybersecurity veteran Jake Moore said when I asked him if my phone was listening in on me: they don’t listen He replied.

But then why is Facebook suspiciously good at serving me ads for specific products and immediately after mentioning them in a verbal Conversation? Advertisements for skylights, children’s luggage, and pillows shaped like specific body parts (I don’t make them) are just a few examples I can list from personal experience.

Jake is a global cybersecurity consultant for ESET with over a decade of experience fighting online threats, and I had the opportunity to ask him all the burning cybersecurity questions during a 45-minute interview. Facebook, Meta, Instagram are not legally allowed to listen. They cannot hear […] I have never seen any real, scientific evidence that they are listening. However, I have heard thousands of anecdotal impressions. he added. Naturally, this makes one wonder what is going on. If our phones can’t really eavesdrop on everything we say around them to serve us relevant ads, why have my friends and PhoneArena readers and I experienced ad targeting that seems to suggest otherwise? Jake introduced me to a more likely explanation.

Hey Vitap, how is the weather today?

Before I continue, I should clarify that phones do in fact have the technical ability to listen. This is how voice assistants work. If allowed, they can listen for wake words like Hey Siri and Okay Google and take action from standby. This is a feature that you actively agree to enable.

What phones are not allowed to do is listen Actively and secretly No matter what we say they can’t record our conversations to serve us targeted ads based on what they hear with their microphones.

But even without that ability, Meta and Google already know a lot more about us than most people do. They know our age, gender and marital status. They know where we live and what places we visit. They know who we were friends with and what we and they are interested in. They know what we search for, what content we consume, what brands we buy, what topics we are interested in.

Tech giants are also adept at making connections between data points like the ones above. These connections are then used to serve ads and are most likely to interest ads that people with profiles like ours click on. Add to that a bunch of biases and tendencies we all have, and the recipe for suspicion begins.

The tricks our brain plays on us

I bought a new car a few years ago. Soon after, I noticed how many cars of the same make, model and even color were on the streets. Of course, a bunch of gray Volvos didn’t suddenly appear in town. Instead, my brain was just learning about them now that I owned one.

As for paying attention to things, before continuing the article, watch this video.

That was weird, right? Our brain has many flaws/features that sometimes deceive us. In short, our flesh computers only focus on things that are current, important, and may have an immediate impact. Other stimuli are simply filtered out because it would be overwhelming to get everything from everywhere all the time. For those who are curious, there is a book called The invisible gorilla and covers this phenomenon in detail.

How does this affect the ads we see?

Studies show that people say thousands of words every day, and among them are sure to be keywords that can be related to a product, service or business being advertised online. At the same time, the number of advertisements that are presented daily is hundreds. So, if our phones were listening to serve us ads, it’s reasonable to expect that suspicious and unique things would happen more often every day, no doubt.

But the thing is, people don’t pay attention to the hundreds of cases where the ad didn’t match what it was talking about. On the other hand, people notice matches, probably because everything in the ad is already in their mind. After all, they are talking about it. Indeed, it is not impossible that the conversation may have been unconsciously triggered by the same or similar advertisement that had briefly appeared earlier.

And sometimes it’s just a combination of luck and data reading patterns from Facebook et al. Remember: Google and Meta already know more about you and your habits than you think, so when an ad for a favorite restaurant pops up right after you mention it, chances are it’s because You go there often during the day. That ad was going to appear anyway.

I’m sure not everyone will be happy with this explanation, but until there is hard evidence to prove we’re being spied on, it’s a possibility. Do you have any horror advertising stories to share? The comments section below is all yours!

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