According to Pew Research Center, 85% of the American population, or 3.5 billion individuals, hold a smartphone. Our cell phones now perform an infinite number of functions; there is an app for practically anything you can think of. And 47 percent of smartphone owners in the United States believe they couldn’t live without it!
However, with all of the potential these applications provide, comes a tremendous deal of responsibility. What exactly do we mean by that? Have you ever observed an orange dot appear in the upper right corner of your phone’s screen?
The Dot Isn’t Very Noticeable
You may have seen an orange dot on your phone previously but did not notice it. Because it is so tiny, it is easy to overlook.
In September 2020, Apple will release iOS 14, a new iPhone software update. Following the upgrade, consumers began to see the orange dot on their phones. However, unless you’re tech-savvy, you might not understand what the new iPhone function truly implies.
If you see it, you might want to be careful what you say. Find out why.
It Started With The iOS 14 Update
As with most iPhone upgrades, your phone should have looked slightly different after installing iOS 14. (Or maybe you just got a new phone and this is your first time seeing it.) The updated widget gallery now has a fresh layout, allowing users to better organize their apps.
The upgrade also had an impact on messaging, allowing users to pin discussions and improve group messages. Maps also got a new feature with better cycling instructions for individuals who ride their bikes while using the program.
Privacy features were also updated.
Changes to Privacy Settings
The iOS 14 release, in addition to the previously stated new capabilities, made several modifications to user privacy. The new privacy features were created to aid in the improvement of transparency.
The update is also meant to assist customers in understanding the type of access they are committing to when they download an app onto their phone. Each app you install on your phone may unintentionally grant access to your location, images, microphone, camera, and even your phone contacts. But that wasn’t the only thing that altered.
Technology Is Helpful… If You Know How To Use It
Of course, cell phones aren’t the only pieces of contemporary technology that many of us rely on daily. Smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Nest are supposed to let us execute simple tasks without using our hands.
With a smart speaker in your home, all you have to do is say the magic phrase, and Alexa or Google Assistant will come to your aid. This cutting-edge technology isn’t going away anytime soon.
Are They Always Listening?
Customers who purchased smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo and Google Nest have legitimate concerns about their smart gadgets listening in on every word they say in the privacy of their homes.
We’ve been told that they’re meant to spring into action and begin listening as soon as you say, “Hey Alexa.” This is referred to as the “wake word” by the product creators. In principle, until you speak the wake word, the virtual assistant should not be listening to what you’re saying.
The Device Is Connected To Cloud Computing
It’s reassuring to know that the personal assistants linked to our smart speakers aren’t listening until we say the wake word. However, customers began reading about how Amazon Echo uses cloud computing to provide its services.
This implies that anything said to the gadget is sent to a distant server. The order is quickly interpreted and returned to the speaker for Alexa’s response.
Big businesses like Amazon and Google use cloud computing for machine learning and artificial intelligence purposes.
Cloud Computing Means It’s Paying Attention
Consider the things that are recommended to you while shopping online at sites such as Amazon to better understand how your smart speaker and virtual assistant use cloud computing. These product recommendations are based on your previously seen goods, transaction history, and search phrases.
It’s paying attention to how you engage. As you’ll see, virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant function in the same manner.
Sometimes The Speaker Thinks You Said The Wake Word
Sometimes smart speakers can falsely believe you spoke the wake word when you did not. What happens next? The speaker will continue to listen in on your discussions while waiting for a command. Northeastern University researchers discovered in a study that smart speakers may be tricked into recording your chat if they believe they heard a wake word like “Alexa,” “Siri,” or “Google.”
This is bad news for users who don’t want others recording or listening in on their private discussions.
This Can Happen Once An Hour
Researchers at Northeastern University discovered in the same study that these unintentional recordings can occur as frequently as once an hour, every day. However, this should only last a few seconds.
“This verifies what a lot of us are seeing anecdotally— that these gadgets wake up all the time when they shouldn’t, which might represent a privacy issue,” said an Associate Professor at Northeastern University’s Khoury College of Computer Sciences.
Amazon Says They’re Working On It
Why is this problem still occurring? Amazon, Google, and Apple developers promise customers that they are continually trying to enhance the operation of their devices and that the number of unintentional recordings should decrease as technology advances.
Our wake word detection and voice recognition become better every day— as consumers use their devices, we optimize performance and enhance accuracy,” an Amazon spokeswoman told Consumer Reports in an email.
Of Course, It’s Picking Up On Things It’s Not Supposed To
It’s unnerving to hear that the designers of these gadgets and virtual assistants are perfectly aware that they’re capturing stuff they’re not supposed to (or, at least, not with the user’s awareness). “Digital assistants are flawed technology— it’s not shocking that they’re going to mistakenly gather data they’re not meant to,” said Justin Brookman, Director of Privacy and Technology Policy at Consumer Reports.
When we bring these gadgets into our homes, that’s the risk we take, that they’ll be mistakenly triggered and record what we say… there’s no knowing how they’re utilizing it to understand us better,” he stated.
How To Stop The Recordings
There is a way to prevent the Amazon Echo from listening in on your chats to boost Amazon’s “product development.” To disable it, go to the settings and locate your voice recording choices. From there, turn it off.
You may also find the Alexa Privacy option in the Alexa app and disable it. If you don’t want your discussions to be stored in the Amazon cloud, this is a wise decision!
The Case of Advertising Cookies
Returning to cloud computing, large firms such as Amazon and Google are listening to what you’re saying and seeking to offer items and brands that you might be interested in based on your past purchases. After all, this is useful information for advertisers who want to put their product in front of you so you may buy it.
But, as one reporter discovered, they’re not only looking at what you’re browsing…
A Reported Claimed That Her Phone Was Listening To Her
Miranda Knox, a reporter for The Sun, was concerned that her smartphone was listening in on her chats, as were many of us. She resolved to put her notion to the test and prove that it wasn’t just her paranoia.
Knox went into her phone’s settings and enabled mic permission for all of her applications. She picked a few esoteric subjects for the experiment that she had never looked for or shown interest in. “Spandex,” “business cards,” and “vegan food” were her choices. She got into her social media account and began talking about those topics aloud while scrolling and swiping on her phone.
She Was Served Ads Related To The Topics!
Knox began seeing advertising relating to the unusual themes she decided to examine within days of starting the experiment. “I felt like I was being watched,” she stated in a Sun piece. “I was swamped with adverts relating to these terms within days.”
She left the microphone on and went about her business. The advertisements persisted. “I was on the sofa with my phone next to me, talking to my husband about acquiring an armchair, when I was swamped with furniture adverts.”
A Warning From A Cyber Expert
DefenceWorks founder and cyber specialist Edward Whittingham said he is not shocked by Miranda Knox’s experience and terrifying outcomes. “There’s no doubt that our phones can listen to us,” he told The Sun, “but the million-dollar issue is whether they do.”
He encouraged consumers who are concerned about large corporations listening in on their talks to verify the permissions on each of their phone apps. “You could be shocked at how many people have or want access to your microphone, camera, or phone contacts. When there is no evident or concrete reason why they would require it, “He issues a warning.
It’s Up To Us To Protect Our Privacy
It may appear that the firms developing these smart speakers, smartphones, and virtual assistants are not fully upfront with their consumers. What else are they keeping quiet about?
It appears that we must conduct our investigation to ensure that we are not unwittingly agreeing to allow these gadgets to record our discussions. Because, let’s face it, who reads the fine print in the terms and conditions agreement?
One way to take control is to know when your phone’s mic is on and when you’re being recorded.
The Orange Dot Means Your Mic Is Being Used
When you see an orange dot appear in the top right corner of your phone, it signals that the microphone is in use. It will show when you make a phone call or begin a voice recording. This makes sense because these functions will necessitate the usage of your microphone.
But what if you view it while not on the phone or making a voice text? That is the time to be concerned…
If The Orange Dot Randomly Appears, An App Is Using Your Mic
When you notice the orange dot when browsing the internet or using an app, you should be concerned. That small orange dot signifies that anything on your phone is listening in on your microphone.
That implies your chats are being recorded, and whatever you say near your phone is almost certainly being transferred to the cloud. Don’t be shocked if you start seeing advertisements tailored to your recent talks.
Take Back Your Privacy
You can regain control of your privacy now that you understand what the orange dot implies. Go to your phone’s settings and click on each app you’ve downloaded to see what it can access, such as your microphone, camera, location, and contacts.
You may discover more than one perpetrator who has access to your microphone for no apparent reason.
The Orange Dot Won’t Tell You Much Else
While the orange dot shows that your phone’s microphone is active, it doesn’t tell you anything more. It won’t tell you what was recorded or for how long. It won’t even tell you which app was utilizing your microphone or what it was capturing.
That doesn’t seem right. Raising awareness is a positive start, and you are now more aware of when your privacy is being violated. It may even make you reconsider downloading another program!