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Is Your Phone Listening to Your Conversations?

Source: WFAA ABC 8

TAMPA, Fla. — Have you ever had the feeling your phone was listening to you? For example, you’re having a conversation about a product or brand, and then later an ad for that brand shows up on your feed.

10News went behind the advertisement to find out how exactly it ended up there. We started by asking some of you on the 10News Facebook page if this phenomenon has happened to you.

Many of you responded with your own stories of ads appearing on your feeds after having conversations about a product.

Donna Sosa recalled a time she and her husband were talking about Take 5 Oil Change and the next day, an ad for the company showed up on her Facebook page.

Patty Meyers Richard shared her experience after talking with her sister about getting a Life Alert for their mom. The very next day, she too had ads for the product on her feed.

We took these scenarios to Cordes Owen, the President of Bake More Pies, a digital marketing agency in Tampa.

Owen says your phone is absolutely listening to your conversations and then targeting you with ads based on what you said.

While Bake More Pies doesn’t collect data, they do pay for a service that gives them access to the data, so they can better target their advertising.

“There are demographic, behavioral, psychographic type metrics that these companies are collecting on you all the time,” explained Owen.

Many times, the sophisticated advertising comes to life through a third-party service that creates a database allowing Bake More Pies and other companies to target a specific group of consumers. For example, Owen can target people interested in a Honda Accord living in the Tampa Bay area.

After filtering his target group, Bake More Pies then has the ability to pick what kind of ad to use and when. For example, Owen could pick an online banner ad to show up in the evening hours.

Throughout the process, Bake More Pies relies on the integrity of that third party provider they pay for to get his ad in front of the eyes of the people he intended.

How can I limit my phone’s access to my conversations?

Go into your phone’s privacy settings, select the microphone, and then turn off your microphone in apps that don’t need it.

Why did that ad show up on my feed? Look for the blue arrow.

When you see an ad online, look for the blue arrow in the top right hand corner. That means a third party data collection company is behind the ad.

Most times, by clicking on the blue arrow, you’ll be prompted to read more information about why the ad showed up and how companies are targeting you. There’s also opt out information.