Tuesday, 31 January 2023 18:17

Some smartphone games spy on what you watch on TV.

While at first glance some smartphone games seem harmless, these applications, once downloaded to a smartphone, can track users' audiovisual habits, reports the New York Times. And this spying takes place even when the games are not activated.

These applications, often aimed at children, use software called Alphonso, a program developed by a start-up that specializes in collecting television data for advertisers.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)


Through the use of the device's microphone, the Alphonso software can record and analyze what users are watching on television. "The software identifies audio signals within commercials and shows and can match that information to the locations visited and movies watched by the user," says Sapna Maheshwari, technology editor at The New York Times.

"This information can then be used to target ads even more precisely. It can also be used to analyze ads that encourage a person to visit, say, a car dealership."

More than 250 games using Alphonso software are available in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.


Some of the tracking of the user's habits takes place even when the microphone is not activated. The software is also able to detect sounds when the smartphone is in the person's pocket.

According to Alphonso, the software would not record human conversations. In addition, the operation of the software is described in the manual of the games and in the privacy policy of the company, explains the developer. Thus, the company cannot access users' microphones and locations without their permission, the company argues.

"The consumer knowingly opts in to this technology and can opt out at any time," said Ashish Chordia, CEO of Alphonso. In addition, the company's disclosures would comply with U.S. Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

Approximately 1,000 games and applications are said to be equipped with Alphonso software. Chordia further added that it does not approve of its software being used in children's applications. However, according to the New York Times, the software is present in a dozen games for young people.

Aphonso is not the only start-up using new technologies to try to penetrate users' living rooms in search of information to sell to marketers, the newspaper says.

Advertising companies invest about $70 billion a year. In addition, advertisers do not skimp when it comes to paying more for information that increases the effectiveness of these investments.

As a result, the industry is closely monitored by the authorities. Last year, the U.S. Trade Commission sent a warning to a dozen developers who were using Silverpush software. This software also provides access to information about the TV viewing habits of the general public.

More recently, Vizio agreed to pay $2.2 million in fines for collecting and selling viewing data from millions of Internet-connected TVs without the owners' knowledge or consent.

"Companies that collect data, primarily through games, need to clearly explain their business practices to consumers because this is something unexpected and surprising," said Justin Brookman, director of privacy at Consumers Union.

"We need to make sure the public has a clear understanding of the data being collected and the strategies being used."

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)



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Last modified on Friday, 02 December 2022 11:32

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