Virtual private network service provider NordVPN has published a new study showing a 5% increase in the installation of monitoring apps over the last year.
The group said that these monitoring tools typically allow for targeted marketing, as they use data collected by digital assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant, or Alexa.
NordVPN said that these assistants ‘listen in’ to their user all the time so that they can hear any potential voice commands and assist. However, some of the things people say are being recorded for companies’ own benefits, like improving the service quality or for marketing purposes, it said.
“When you ask Google Assistant or Siri to find something, this information is used for online advertising. It’s no different from typing something into Google Search,” said Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN.
“If you’re looking for car dealerships in your city, related ads will start chasing you across the internet. In a way, a virtual assistant is just another search engine.”
NordVPN said the best way to see if your phone is helping marketers target you is by effectively setting up a ‘trap’ and deliberately focusing on a topic you are not typically interested in.
It outlined the process as follows:
“Once you set up the trap, notice if any new advertisements have started targeting you on social media or other digital channels. If they have, then your phone is probably helping these ads reach you,” NordVPN said.
When users use a virtual assistant, they agree to the terms and conditions of the service provider. Since they have given their consent, it’s legal to track the conversations with Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, and others for marketing purposes.
“It only becomes illegal if an app is spying on you without your consent. That’s why it’s essential to review the permissions you’re giving specific services and learn about the ways your phone is tracking you,” NordVPN said.
A virtual assistant is just another feature on your smartphone, speaker, watch, or any other device. If you don’t use it or feel unsafe, you can disable it.
Sources: www.businesstech.co.za and www.nordvpn.com