Digg is an independent, advertiser-supported website and may receive compensation for some links to products and services throughout this website.

Is My Phone Listening To Me?

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer

*Content includes branded mentions of our sponsor, Norton Secure VPN.

We've all had that moment after talking with a friend when we start seeing targeted ads related to our topic of discussion on a social media platform or internet browser. This prompts the question: Is my phone always listening to me? Or is it just a weird coincidence?

As people around the globe continue to ask this question regularly, the possibility of it being a coincidence seems increasingly implausible. Read on to see if your phone is listening in on your conversations and, if so, what you can do about it.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
Stay safe online with Norton Secure VPN
Surf the web worry-free with Norton Secure VPN protecting your personal information. Start safeguarding your online world today by clicking on your state.
HawaiiAlaskaFloridaSouth CarolinaGeorgiaAlabamaNorth CarolinaTennesseeRIRhode IslandCTConnecticutMAMassachusettsMaineNHNew HampshireVTVermontNew YorkNJNew JerseyDEDelawareMDMarylandWest VirginiaOhioMichiganArizonaNevadaUtahColoradoNew MexicoSouth DakotaIowaIndianaIllinoisMinnesotaWisconsinMissouriLouisianaVirginiaDCWashington DCIdahoCaliforniaNorth DakotaWashingtonOregonMontanaWyomingNebraskaKansasOklahomaPennsylvaniaKentuckyMississippiArkansasTexas
View Plans

Does Your Phone Listen To You?

Your phone might indeed be listening to you, but not necessarily in the way you think — and not for the reasons you might expect.

Phones and other smart devices with microphones, such as TVs and speakers, can listen in on nearby conversations. If you enable your smartphone's digital assistant and grant every app permission to access your microphone, then you can bet it's paying attention to some extent.

Tech companies developed virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana and Alexa to assist customers in their day-to-day life. However, these tools can also gather information that may be used to provide targeted ads in hopes that you'll bust out your credit card. Though it might not be harmful, having your data used for advertising purposes can be annoying or even concerning.

The truth of the matter is that, while we don't know exactly how much of our conversations are used for targeted ads, it's probably not substantial. Our digital footprint stretches all over the web, so much so that companies don't need to listen to us to know what we're interested in.

By using cookies to collect information about you, looking at your activity — and your friends' activity — on social media and logging your GPS usage, companies can easily guess what ad will be most likely to get you spending money.

Why Is My Phone Listening To Me?

The main reason why your phone may be listening to you is to make your life more convenient.  If your device has a virtual assistant that supports voice commands ("Hey Siri, do ducks like cheesecake?"), your phone is always listening for its activation phrase — it's just trying to help.

It should come as no surprise, though, that things you say in a phone conversation sometimes reemerge in the form of an advertisement on social media or an online store. In some cases, this can be useful: You get targeted ads for things you may actually want. But not everyone fancies the idea of a machine listening to them.

Fortunately, ads are not a big reason for why your phone is listening to you. Advertisers don't need to bother with this when they have much more efficient ways of gathering information on you. Rather, companies listen to random snippets of conversations with their virtual assistant to review their performance and identify potential issues, such as waking up by accident.

How To Stop Your Phone From Listening To You

Just because it's legal for your phone to listen to you doesn't mean you have to put up with it. If you don't like the idea of your phone eavesdropping on you, here are a few things you can do to stop this from happening.

How To Disable Microphone Access On iPhone

To disable microphone access on iOS, start by going to Settings > Privacy & Security > Microphone. This will show you a list of every app that has asked permission to use the microphone and whether or not you've granted it. You can also manage access to other features you may want to disable, such as access to Photos, Camera and Motion & Fitness.

Next, you'll want to disable Siri. Go to Settings > Siri & Search and turn off "Listen for 'Hey Siri,' "Press Side Button for Siri" and "Allow Siri When Locked." Don't worry about turning Siri off, since you can easily re-enable it later if needed.

How To Disable Microphone Access On Android

To modify app permissions on your Android device, go to Settings > Apps, select the app you wish to modify and tap on Permissions. You can see all of the permissions that you've allowed or denied here, including microphone access, as well as review and adjust them as needed.

To disable Google Assistant on your phone, go to Settings > Google > Account Services > Search, Assistant & Voice. Select Voice Match, then turn off "Hey Google."

How To Change Microphone Permissions For Specific Apps

When you download a new app, it will ask permission to use certain features. Some apps will ask for multiple features — like access to your camera, microphone and photos — right away, and others will ask when it needs that feature for the app to function. Apps often exaggerate what they need, so feel free to deny the request if you don't think it's necessary.

To revoke microphone access from a specific app on iOS, you'll need to go into Settings menu > Privacy & Security > Microphone. Scroll through the apps listed and toggle microphone access on or off as you see fit.

Android users must go to Settings > Apps and then find the app they want to take microphone access away from. Once you tap on that specific app, you can disable its privileges.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
Guard your data with Norton Secure VPN
Keep your personal information safe while browsing the web. Choose Norton Secure VPN for top online protection. Click below and secure your connection now.
View Plans

How To Test If Your Phone Is Listening To You

If you want to find out whether your phone is listening to you, here's an experiment you can do. First, choose a product or service you've never considered buying, haven't searched for online, and has nothing to do with you. For example, if you have pet allergies and aren't likely to be around pets, choose something to do with dogs and cats.

Start talking about your product or service within range of your phone. These can be fake or real conversations when friends and family are over or call you. Make sure to do this for a few days in a row, covering different angles of the product. You might talk about specific breeds of cats, ask how much cat food costs, consider how to cat-proof your house, etc.

Then, just wait and see how long it takes for your favorite websites and social media feeds to suggest buying designer cat sweaters or luxury dog beds.

Tips For Protecting Your Privacy On Your Smartphone

Turning off your phone's microphone may help protect your privacy, but there is more that you can do. Try some of these steps for added security.

1. Only Download Apps From Official App Stores

As a rule of thumb, you should limit your app downloads to the App Store and the Google Play Store. These stores are regulated and inspect their featured apps so users don't have to worry about malicious software.

Downloading apps outside the iOS and Android app stores can expose your mobile device to some risks. The most serious one is a security breach.

That new app you downloaded off a website might seem fantastic at first, but you may later realize that you loaded your phone with a bunch of adware and spyware. Suddenly, you start getting texts from cyber criminals pretending to be debt collectors, or your credit card statement shows you purchased several airline tickets from Tbilisi to Guatemala City.

You should be able to trust the apps that you have on your phone. Downloading software from an external site could lead to someone listening in, hacking your phone and stealing your private data — best stick to the app stores.

2. Check Your App Permissions

Just because your app asks politely to access certain features on your phone doesn't mean you should allow it. Not every app needs access to your microphone, camera, contact list and location tracking at all times.

If an app needs to access certain features to function, remember you can limit permissions to only allow access when using the app. You can even make the app ask you exclusively when it needs the feature by going to the Settings menu on your iPhone or Android device.

3. Delete Your Voice Request History On Google Assistant

Google Assistant and Siri keep a few audio recordings of what you ask them. For some people, this may include sensitive information they would rather not have stored. But fear not: There is a way to delete your voice request history.

On an Android device, go to Settings > Google > Manage your Google account > Select Data & Privacy > History Settings > Web & App Activity. Then, on the Manage activity page, you'll find a list of your past commands. You can select Delete and All Time to delete all items simultaneously. From there, just follow the on-screen instructions.

To get rid of your Siri history, go to Settings > Siri & Search > Siri & Dictation History. There is only one option on this next page: Delete Siri & Dictation History. After confirming that you want your history deleted, it will be cleared.

4. Use A Secure VPN

Getting a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for your phone will add extra security when you access the internet. VPNs are networks that mask your IP address so that your online activities are more private.

Downloading a top-of-the-line VPN, like Norton Secure VPN, can really make a difference in protecting your data and information. VPNs also come with other benefits, like accessing geo-blocked content and keeping your search history private.

5. Turn On Automatic Software Updates

Automatic software updates aren't just intended to phase out color schemes or add new emojis. These updates are important for making sure your apps are current with the latest security protocols.

Updates should fix vulnerabilities in the app in your phone's operating system. Having your phone automatically update the software lessens the risk of an attack on your privacy.

To turn on automatic updates on an iOS device, head to Settings > App Store and turn on App Updates. For Android users, you'll need to open the Google Play Store app and tap the profile icon in the top right corner. Next, you'll select Settings > Network Preferences > Auto-update apps.

Ads by Money. We may be compensated if you click this ad.AdAds by Money disclaimer
Encrypt your internet traffic with a VPN
Enjoy safe and private access to the internet with Norton Secure VPN. Click below today to start using a VPN service and protect your online activities.
View Plans

Can Someone Listen To You Through Your Phone?

The short answer is yes. Hackers can take control of your phone's microphone and monitor your conversations. Depending on the information they overhear, hackers may be able to steal your identity, lock you out of your financial accounts, target others close to you with phishing attacks and more.

Does Your Phone Listen To You For Ads?

Marketing is a billion-dollar industry. Companies pay top dollar to know what interests you and what you'll spend money on. Sending you a targeted ad for something they know you've talked about is a much more efficient way to make a sale than tossing random products in your direction.

Although companies are definitely using any and all information they can for marketing purposes, using audio files is not the first method on their list. There are much easier and more efficient ways to craft targeted ads for you.

Summary Of Digg's Is My Phone Listening To Me

Your phone is always listening to you — if you let it. It can be a helpful tool for answering your questions, following commands and showing you things you might want to buy. But it's important to remember that hackers can also access your microphone if you're not careful.

What you do to protect your privacy and personal data is up to you, but following the tips outlined in this article or getting one of the best VPN services will help you take control of your eavesdropping phone.