Smartphone Microphone

Researchers Find 234 Apps Tracking Android Phones

Researchers from Germany’s Braunschweig Technical University announced they found 234 applications on the Google Play store that accessed the smartphones’ microphones in order to detect inaudible tones emitted by smart TVs and ultrasonic beacons in retail stores. Four of the 35 retail locations the researchers visited during their research contained ultrasonic emitters. Many of the apps require no mobile data nor wi-fi connection, and require only access to the microphone to listen to the ultrasonic beacons. This allows the tracking to function even when the phone is disconnected from the Internet; the apps simply wait until the phone is reconnected to send in the tracking data on location and shopping behavior. To restrict tracking, Android users can go into phone settings and review which apps are granted permission to use the phone’s microphone. —AK

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