Skip to main content

Are smartphones listening to our conversations?

A mobile that is always listening to you sounds like something out of The Truman Show, but some people believe that's exactly what is happening whenever your smartphone is within earshot.

There is a growing concern that apps (or the phones themselves) may be eavesdropping on your conversations to offer you more tailored advertisements. Although the technology is certainly possible, Microsoft and Apple have asserted that they do no such thing.

Threads on Reddit are rife with these concerns, with thousands of comments from users discussing their experiences. Many report having had seemingly random conversations and then found their applications littered with adverts relating to them.

Transcendit decided to test the theory. We recorded our web developer Christophe saying, 'Voyage en Australie. C’est superbe, Je voudrais y retourner. ' In English, this means 'Trip to Australia. It is superb, I would like to go back.' We convinced our team to part with their mobiles for an hour, and put Christophe's recording on loop. And then we waited.

The team were under strict instructions to report any advertisements that seemed out of place. Our development team knew what the phones had been listening to, whereas our support team didn't - but we thought that an advert in French would catch their eye.

However, after a few hours we concluded that our mobiles were not listening to us at all, as the most interesting advert anyone had received was for picture framing services. And then we received the following email:

Australia Email

But before you throw your smartphones into the sea, this doesn't prove that our mobile devices are eavesdropping (or conspiring to send us to Australia). A much more feasible explanation is the frequency illusion (or the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon). This is where something that you're thinking about suddenly seems to be everywhere with improbable frequency.

On further examination of the email, we found that Student Hut had sent it to all of their subscribers (and tweeted about it for good measure). So not quite as targeted as we thought. And out of all the adverts and emails we collectively received, only a single email mentioned anything Australia related. We didn't find that our mobiles were suddenly fluent in French either. 

If you want to check how attentive your mobile is being, leave your smartphone next to this for a bit. If your mobile is suddenly speaking Spanish, double check your privacy settings. Or just cover it's ears whenever you have an important conversation.


The Transcendit Way

Transcendit understand that when you choose to work with us, whether we're taking care of your IT, app or web development, you're trusting us with part of your business. So whether we're looking after your computers, phone systems or servers we always do things 'the Transcendit way'.

The whole of our team adhere to the same values, beliefs and policies - the principles that were written when Transcendit first formed in 2000. Whether you come to us for a refurbished computer, cloud services or recovery backup you can be confident that you'll always receive the same excellent service.

The Transcendit way outlines how we do business; following the same straightforward principles with every client and customer, regardless of how big or small they may be.

That means we get to know you and your business. We offer you a friendly, professional and efficient service, and we'll always be honest with you.
We understand that not everybody speaks fluent IT, so we try to explain things in a way that is simple and clear. We always spend as much time as is necessary explaining things to you.
If you need to talk to us about something, no matter how insignificant, we are only ever a phone call away – and we’re never too busy to make you a cup of tea and have a sit down with you in person.
We understand how frustrating it can be when things are late. When we schedule an appointment with you, we are there when you’re expecting us. If something prevents us from getting there, we always call you in advance to let you know.
Sometimes things can go wrong, but we never lie to you or try to cover something up. If things go askew we tell you what’s happened and how we plan to prevent it affecting your business.
We want you to continuously benefit from working with us. We regularly discuss your business and make suggestions for improving systems and processes wherever we can – but we never try to push you into a purchase.
When we quote a fixed price, that's always the amount we charge – you won’t find any nasty surprises on a bill from us. If you are paying by time and materials, we inform you if our approximations could change.
We understand the importance of privacy for your business and your customers. We respect the confidentiality of your data, and we will never pass on your information to third parties.
We appreciate it when you take the time to give us feedback. A system called CustomerSure records our client's responses, so you can trust that our reviews are from real people.
Find out what they're saying here.
Another rescue from the fantastic team at Transcendit! Thanks David W! Results Communications Ltd

Based on 5589 reviews our customers rate us 9.8/10. Reviews and ratings by Customersure. 29-March-2017

Transcendit are proud sponsors of CHUF, the Children's Heart Unit Fund.