Alphonso is a kind of shady analog of Shazam, a music recognition application. But the most unpleasant this was the ability of Alphonso to record what is happening in the room even when the screen of your phone is turned off.
Why applications follow users
There are several reasons for that. One of them is to display relevant advertising. They collect data about your preferences and interests. The more data they collect, the more complete the picture of you they will be able to form. After the broker chain, all this information reaches the advertiser, who, based on the information collected, will be able to provide the user with the right product at the right time. You may not realize it but total surveillance is already here. It uses browser fingerprinting, shadow profiles on social networks, etc.
As for Alfonso, its creators claim that they never record human speech, but only the sound coming from TV boxes and other electronic devices. I do not know how it is technically possible to distinguish human voice on TV and real voice in the room. But apparently, they say they somehow manage to do it, at least on a piece of paper.
Third-party software from Alphonso has been built into many Android apps available for free on the Play Store. Some of the apps were also available for the iPhone in the App Store.
Apparently, neither Facebook nor Instagram does not use Alphonso. Although Facebook, despite the lack of evidence, has repeatedly been accused of wiretapping. Some experts believe that the Facebook application secretly activates the phone’s microphone.
I assume that Facebook advertising partners use data collected by third-party applications, which in turn use the Alphonso code. Why risk and collect data through their own applications? It is much better to use third party brokers and information from the users who themselves fill in their shadow profiles on a daily basis. Brilliant!
How apps spy on users
You allow them. No, seriously, all these applications should ask for your permission to listen to what is happening around.
Let's see how it works. I installed one of the applications containing the Alfonso code on my phone. This is a free darts game. When launching the app for the first time, it asks for permission to access my location and microphone.
Please think - why does a simple game of darts need access to the location of your phone? Why does it need to activate the microphone and listen to what is happening in the room?
It is clear that all this is not needed for you to play darts. Such applications operate on the fact that people do not pay attention to trifles and click on everything and grant all permissions.
How to prevent apps from snooping
Before installing any application, you need to look at the permissions. If you install the application, not from Google Play, then it is worth checking it for viruses. You can use VirusTotal or specific services designed to check mobile apps.
If you are in doubt, then it is better to install the application using a test account and use the safe mode. Even if the application does not have malicious code, it should be limited. After installation, you should not obediently provide the application with all permissions it requests.
In order to protect against spying activities carried out by the applications installed on your Android phone, do the following:
- Go to “Settings” > “Applications”.
- Select the desired application.
- In the application settings, click on the “Permissions” item.
- Turn on or off specific permissions.
- Go back and try to start the application. If the application functions normally, then leave it like this, otherwise you can bring it back.
Setting the permissions of the application is only available for Android versions 6 and above.
In my example, I restricted the access of the Booking.com application to everything that it initially requested: to the calendar, camera, contacts, location, and memory. And so, what do you think? Everything works great! Of course, now the application will not be able to determine where I am located in order to once again offer some hotel rooms discounts, but it is not necessary to me on daily basis. Actually, I can find everything that I need and when I need it.
Other ways to protect against installed apps spying
Do not forget about the firewall. The firewall allows you to restrict or even deny app from accessing the network. Using a firewall, you can provide application access only when necessary. The rest of the time the application will be blocked. You can also use VPN apps like this for encrypting all your traffic, changing geo-location and enhancing your overall online security.
That's all. Online privacy is your right! Share the article on social networks with your friends, and make people start thinking and stop giving away their privacy for free.
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