Smartphone apps use mics to record what TV ads you watch

Apps on Android and iOS devices maybe using the hardware microphone to record users' viewing habits.


NSFW    SAN FRANCISCO — Hundreds of smartphone apps could be tracking their users' television viewing habits.

According to The New York Times, various game apps use software named Alphonso, a program which collects television viewing data via smartphone microphone, reported the Times. The paper found the software on various apps designed for children.

Alphonso says users can opt out of this and is made clear before users download an app. The company told The Times its disclosures comply with federal trade guidelines.

Alphonso Chief Executive Ashish Chordia told the Times around 1,000 games, messaging and social apps use Alphonso software. He didn't tell the paper which apps or how many users Alphonso keeps track off.

The Alphonso company website says the software uses automated content recognition to identify what ads and programing a user is watching within "a fraction of a second, in a completely anonymous fashion." The company collects this data for advertisers, reported the Times.

Alphonso can also pinpoint what people are watching via audio signals in TV ads. The software can also track what films via people watch at the cinema based on audio snippets provided to the company from film studios, reported the Times, citing Alphonso Chief Executive Ashish Chordia.

The company also gathers data from TiVO, televisions, and streaming devices from other manufacturers, reported the Times. This, the Times reports, can be combined with characteristics such as age, sex and income via large data companies.
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