Your Phone is Listening: Here’s How to Protect Your Privacy

Precious Gellada

Precious Gellada Last updated: September 2, 2021

Your Phone is Listening: Here’s How to Protect Your Privacy

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Okay, it’s storytime. I was out with a friend on a Sunday morning enjoying a delicious brunch with some bloody marys and casual conversation. I briefly spoke about how I’ve been wanting a stand-up paddleboard this summer to enjoy more time under the sun. When I got home with a full belly I posted up on the couch, pulled out my phone, started scrolling through Instagram, and noticed a few stand-up paddleboard ads in my feed. I thought to myself, “What in the world? I was just talking about paddleboards with my friend! Is my phone listening to me?”

At first, I chalked it up to pure coincidence, but it was happening more and more. Targeted ads kept showing up on my Facebook and Instagram based on my conversations. Coincidence? I think not. It was time to do some research. And I was shocked to find that my phone is listening to my voice and conversations. Knowing this, I felt sick to my stomach—and I’m not the only one.

Why is My Phone Listening to Me?

With the rise of technology, our devices have exponentially evolved to be equipped with high-quality, dynamic microphones. And tech giants like Facebook and Google are attempting to monetize the data they capture through your phone mic. Is that creepy or what?

graphic of Google listening to phone

Many unintentionally give consent to apps and virtual assistants like Siri and Ok Google to track verbal requests and conversations. Unfortunately, this makes it perfectly legal for advertisers to use your recorded voice data for marketing—and potentially malicious—purposes. If you want to protect your privacy and put an end to voice recordings and creepy ads, then keep reading.

How to Stop Your Phone From Listening to You

Let’s equip you with everything you need to stop your phone from listening to you. There are a few ways you can approach this phone tap situation. Here are the best tips and tricks to cover all your bases.

Turn off your phone mic

How to disable Siri on iOS

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap Siri & Search
  3. Toggle off Listen for “Hey Siri”, Press Side Button for Siri, and Allow Siri When Locked
  4. A pop-up will show—tap Turn Off Siri

How to disable Ok Google on Android

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap Google > Account Services > Search > Assistant & Voice > Voice
  3. Finally, tap Voice Match and toggle off Hey Google

Check permission settings on your apps

This can be a tedious process going through all your iPhone or Android apps to check what permissions are toggled on. If you notice an app has access to your microphone, then it’s a good idea to turn that off to protect your privacy.

Keep your software updated

In many cases, software updates are a solution to security and privacy flaws that users have found on their devices. Developers work to patch up these holes to keep your device protected with the latest version. Keep in mind, newly released updates can have technical issues, so we recommend waiting a week or two before installing to see if any red flags pop up from other users.

Clean out your voice request logs

Specifically, Android device users are the ones who need to worry about this. Apple claims Siri requests are not logged and kept on record. So, for all the Android owners, Google does keep a record of what you’re saying to OK Google. The good news is you can delete your Google voice activity history through a few simple steps.

Use a VPN

As your go-to educational resource for all things VPN, we can’t ignore the most obvious solution. Installing a top-ranked VPN to your iPhone or Android device will provide maximum security and ensure your privacy is protected through IP address masking and traffic encryption.

Protect Your Personal Data

It’s true, the digital age we live in is flawed. It may not seem that way with technology constantly enhancing and providing instant gratification for all of us. But no matter what virtual actions you’re engaging in, tech giants are collecting any data they can when you use their products. Stealing your personal information and data for their benefit and monetizing it—it’s simply unsettling. It’s time to give yourself the upper hand, cover all your bases, and prioritize your right to privacy.