You there, Googling "Is my phone listening to me?" Yes. Yes, it is. It's listening to you all the time. Virtual assistants perch at the end of virtual seats eavesdropping on every word and sound, just waiting for the utterance of a "Hey Siri" or "Hey Google" so they may break free from their software shackles and interact with you.
The problem is, sometimes it seems like this active listening campaign is collecting information it isn't technically supposed to be. Ever had a conversation with a friend, only to be bombarded by related ads later that evening? Or how about having your digital assistant pop up out of the blue without you using its "wake" word?
Apparently, all of that 'spying on you for targeted ads' stuff is a conspiracy theory, akin to believing in Bigfoot or talking too much about grassy knolls. However, sometimes it's better to be safe than sorry. This is why you should follow our guide on how to stop your phone from listening to you.
How to stop your iPhone from listening to you
Siri might be awfully helpful, but that doesn't mean she isn't nosing about in the background during your day-to-day activities with her ears wide open. If you're concerned at all when it comes to privacy and what Siri may or may not be passing on to Apple's servers then the following steps should ease your worries:
- Open up "Settings."
- Choose "Siri & Search."
- Disable the toggles for "Listen for 'Hey Siri'," "Press Side button for Siri,", and "Allow Siri When Locked."
- A notification will then appear, tap "Turn Off Siri" to complete these steps.
From now on there'll be no more Siri snooping to worry about. However, that's not to say you don't have other apps on your device with similar permissions. Be sure to check each apps permissions for anything untoward and disable as you see fit.
How to stop your Android phone listening to you
Google Assistant doesn't have a catchy name like Alexa or Siri, but it's equally as intrusive when it comes to eavesdropping on everything going on around it. Make sure your automated Android auxiliary isn't allowing your personal conversations to find a new home on Google's servers by taking the following steps:
- Pull down the top bar and go to "Settings."
- In the "General" tab, select "Google."
- Select "Account services" (or "Settings for Google Apps.")
- Select "Search, Assistant & Voice."
- Select "Voice," and then "Voice match."
- Disable the toggle for "Hey Google."
This should prevent Google Assistant from being a persistent eavesdropper, but it won't shield you from third party apps that might have mic privileges. For that, you'll need to go through your app permissions and make sure that nothing seems out of place.
Paranoia or caution?
It may seem paranoid to some, it may seem like outright lunacy to others, but there's a reason things like privacy shutters exist on webcams, so why doesn't a similar option exist for microphones – something that has already been misused by software manufacturers repeatedly under the guise of oversight, bugs, and glitches.
Take steps to protect yourself and your data, because at the rate companies will fall over themselves trying to get at it, it must be worth a lot. All the more reason not to give it away so freely.
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Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.