Friday, January 15, 2016

Toldja: Cell phones listen to what you're watching on TV.

Little Brother is getting to be more of an asshole that Big Brother, if you ask me. Big Brother listens to criminals and political agitators, Little Brother listens to ME.

Wait, what? It's using the microphones on cell phones to listen? Who's it listening in on?

The company behind the technology is called Symphony Advanced Media. The Observer spoke to its CEO Charles Buchwalter, about how it works, via phone. "Our entire focus is to add insights and perspectives on an entire new paradigm around how consumers are consuming media across  platforms," he told the Observer.

Cool, but is Symphony listening to viewers without their knowledge?

Short answer: pretty much no.

Symphony collects data with a similar strategy to Nielsen, by inviting users to opt-in to specific monitoring. Nielsen has the set meter and its paper diaries. Unlike Nielsen, Symphony uses a less direct strategy than a box on top of a TV to track what a viewer is watching, because not all the viewing is on TVs and not all the broadcasters want to be tracked.

For the privacy-conscious, Symphony's app isn't hidden inside other apps with permissions buried in user agreements no one reads.

Symphony asks those who opt in to load Symphony-branded apps onto their personal devices, apps that use microphones to listen to what's going on in the background. With technology from Gracenote, the app can hear the show playing and identify it using its unique sound signature (the same way Shazam identifies a song playing over someone else's speakers). Doing it that way allows the company to gather data on viewing of sites like Netflix and Hulu, whether the companies like it or not. (Netflix likes data)

So, this time you have to agree to be listened to.

That is not always the case. Chrome apparently tracks pretty much every click and mouse movement these days, AND harvests your cookies. Meaning the guy who has your Facebook cookie can log in to your Facebook account. Or your gmail account, or any other service you use that has an "instant log-in" feature that remembers you are logged in. You know that little "remember me" box? That works by cookies.

There are other things in Chrome that allegedly turn on your microphone without telling you. I don't have time to verify that right now, I'm just going to assume it's true. We know for sure there are apps like Shazam that work by using the microphone, and Siri uses the microphone.

I do believe there is a shitload of money to be made in a SECURITY APP that shuts off the ability of people to spy on you through your phone. I'd pay $500 right now for an app or service that locked down all my stuff and kept Google, Apple and every other government or non-government asshole from surveiling my behavior.

Next killer app is security. Count on it.

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