Are Our Smartphones Really Listening to Every Word We Say and Targeting Us With Ads Based On Our Conversations?

Some people can’t shake the feeling that their phones may be picking up their conversations, even when they’re not making a call, especially if you’re getting online ads for things you never searched for online. It is possible, experts say. But companies know so much about you already, they probably don’t need to eavesdrop, reports CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil.

Sam Nguyen said she gets the feeling her phone is listening to her, and she is sure she gets ads from Facebook and Google for things she only mentions aloud.

“I didn’t write that in my email. I didn’t check it out online yet. It’s just popping up. That’s kinda weird,” Nguyen said.

Weird enough to convince her the companies are eavesdropping through her phone’s microphone — but are they?

“I think it’s very, very unlikely,” said Sandy Parakilas, former Facebook operations manager.

Parakilas said constant streams of audio from so many phones would be too expensive to gather and analyze, and all the data would drive up people’s phone bills. Besides, he said, companies don’t have to listen to know what’s on your mind.

“They know a tremendous amount about you and that enables them to make guesses about what to advertise to you that can be uncannily accurate,” Parakilas said.

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