Twelve smartphone app developers have been warned by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for compromising the privacy of its users. They have allegedly packed audio monitoring software into their apps, invading the privacy of unsuspecting consumers.
As noted by Fortune, SilverPush and other of its kind have designed their apps not to ask the user for permission to access the device’s microphone. If you think this sounds creepy, it’s about to get even more disturbing.
According to the FTC, these unnamed apps are using this intrusive tech to monitor the TV shows you’re watching.
In the warning letters, the agency sent to the offenders it is mentioned that the apps “would be capable of producing a detailed log of the television content viewed while a user’s mobile device was turned on.” Didn’t it get so much worse?
If you wonder why an app would do that, it’s simple: for the mere purpose of improving targeted advertising software and analytics.
For those unfamiliar with the matter, SilverPush is a company that uses your device’s microphone to identify ultrasonic sounds that reveal whether the same person uses multiple gadgets like a smartphone and laptop or tablet.
The two separate devices are thus connected to the same person, allowing the advertiser to create a more extensive profile based on the person’s habits. The messaging app Line has this software baked into its back-end, but it’s surely not the only one.
As it turns out, it can also pick up the audio beacons emitted by TV broadcasts, as well. In response to the warning letter, SilverPush claimed the tech was not used domestically, but that doesn’t make the situation less offensive.
If these applications make their way into the U.S. – SilverPush is based in India – the FTC has requested that the company alert users that downloaded apps could allow third-parties the right to keep tabs on their TV viewing habits.
Meanwhile, the warning letters have demanded that the apps should ask the explicit permission of the user before it uses any gizmo’s microphone.
The FTC said it noticed that some apps were asking for permission to use a smartphone’s mic even though the actual purpose of the app did not need that functionality. Apps packaging SilverPush’s tech can monitor TV viewing habits even if the app is not in use. You’ve been warned.
It’s still unclear if this kind of tech is in use on iOS, as the notices sent so far only called out apps featured on Google Play.
Image Source: Planet Science