Information Privacy in the Digital Era
It’s 2019. Google has been around for more than 20 years now, the iPhone is 12 years old, Facebook turned 15 this February. We have been living in the digital age for quite some time now and we have definitely benefited from it in many ways.
An immense amount of information is only one click away. We are able to keep in touch with friends and family who live in other countries or even on different continents. We can do a lot more with our phones than we could only a decade ago - grocery shopping, book a flight, share a photo with hundreds of people. Our world has become a much more convenient place where digital services play a vital part in our daily life.
Can you imagine what life would be like without all these digital services? Neither can we.
But have you ever thought of the amount of information search engines, social media, and apps collect about our behavior and habits? Reportedly most of this information is used for customer targeting and advertising purposes. A saying that goes “If you are not paying for the service you are the service” resonates with the policy of major search engines, social media platforms, and apps because companies who want to advertise on these platforms pay for the chance to reach more and more new customers through them.
This dynamic raises the need for a conversation about internet privacy, what it means, and how to ensure that we are in control of what information is gathered about us. Cases like the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Google’s latest fine concerning data privacy leave us wondering how our data is protected and what it is used for.
The Rise of Audio Search Technology and How this Affects our Privacy
While the cyber privacy conversation has been going on for years now, a new aspect of this discourse in on the rise - audio privacy.
Apple’s Siri and Google’s search assistant have been around for years, listening to our requests and helping us find information quickly. And then, in 2017 Amazon introduced their Echo device with the sole purpose to make it our personal smart tech assistant.
Alexa, the voice coming through Echo’s speaker is handy and helpful when it comes to groceries, pizza delivery, and choosing what movie to watch next.
The ability of phones, computers, and speakers to listen to us, understand us, and act upon our requests proves not only that our digital times are getting more and more interesting to live in, but it also suggests that the technology needed to listen in on users exists and it is fully functional.
What is a Microphone Blocker and How Does it Work?
A microphone blocker is a semiconductor device used to simulate a live 3.5 mm microphone plugged into your device. What it basically does is trick your smartphone, laptop, or tablet that a real microphone is connected to it by mimicking expected electrical properties of a normal microphone.
This enables the device’s microphone function without really having an enabled microphone and which leaves the mic with no audio input.
If you are wondering if just a regular jack plug could be used for this purpose, you are not the only one. We have had such questions asked and we understand that it might seem more convenient if it was so. However, the microphone blocker device is effective only because it simulates the function of a normal microphone. Using just an ordinary jack plug won’t trick the device into thinking it has a microphone plugged in which would then leave the microphone function off until it is enabled.
While the microphone blocker does protect from someone hacking into your mic or audio, there are some advanced software products which could hack into your device and manage to record audio. Using a microphone blocker device does protect you from many kinds of possible attempts to gather your audio information by listening to your conversations but it doesn’t cover against advanced software attempts against any devices.
How Probable is that Someone Might be Listening in on my Conversations? Do I Need a Microphone Blocker?Now that we know that the technology needed to gather audio data from users exists and it is functioning, the only questions left to ask is if the software and hardware needed to listen and understand people’s conversations are used in any way to gather even more data about us.
The question of whether our conversations are being listened to has triggered many different responses and there have been various opinions about it. For example, there is the app Alphonso which proved to be listening on what TV users were watching through their smartphone microphones. And have you ever had this weird feeling that someone has been listening to your conversations and then you have seen advertisements related to your conversations?
Others have had this feeling too, even a few reporters carried out their own small researches to try to get to the bottom of this feeling. CBS reporter asked if our smartphones are listening to us and then targeting us with ads. Another reporter tried to figure out if voice search triggered recording. No matter the questions and concern though, executives from both Facebook and Google deny that the companies are into such practices.
At the end of the day, there is no solid proof that we are being listened to. And that we aren’t.
Using a microphone blocker is not about being spied on, but it is about being on the safe side in case you don’t like the idea of someone being able to listen to your conversations. Privacy is a matter of personal choice and everyone has their own understanding of what sensitive information is and who should be able to access it. This is why we recommend our microphone blocker device to everyone who feels concerned.