Most smartphone users think their device is listening to their conversations

Two thirds of Britons have noticed targeted ads after speaking about certain products

Olivia Petter
Saturday 17 July 2021 13:12
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The majority of smartphone users in Britain believe their device is listening to them, according to a new YouGov survey.

The survey, which included data from more than 2,000 adults in the UK, found that three in five smartphone owners think their device is picking up on their conversations and using that information to create targeted advertisements.

Two thirds of those surveyed (66 per cent) said they had noticed receiving targeted adverts for a product on their phone after having spoken about it in person.

However, out of these people, just one fifth (22 per cent) said they thought it was because their device had been listening to their conversations.

Other theories for the targeted adverts were other personal data or browsing history.

The survey found that young people are more likely to be suspicious of their smartphones, with 74 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds saying they had notice an “oddly well-timed” advert after speaking about a product in person.

Meanwhile, out of older people aged 55 or more, 54 per cent noticed targeted ads after discussing a product or brand, but just nine per cent believed it was because their phones had been listening to their conversations.

The extent to which smart technology can actually listen to users is a contentious subject, one big tech companies have always vehemently denied.

However, in 2019, Google admitted that its workers listen to customers’ audio recordings on Google Home smart speakers so that it can improve its voice recognition technology.

These recordings were then used to develop the Google Assistant artificial intelligence system, which is used in its Google Home smart speakers and Android smartphones.

The assistant understands and responds to voice commands given to it, answering queries about the news and weather as well as being able to control other internet-connected devices around the home.

In a statement, the company said: “We partner with language experts around the world to improve speech technology by transcribing a small set of queries – this work is critical to developing technology that powers products like the Google Assistant.

“Language experts only review around 0.2 per cent of all audio snippets, and these snippets are not associated with user accounts as part of the review process.”

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