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Security researchers have developed an app that spies on the conversations of those around the phones it is installed on. But the purpose of the app isn’t to breach your privacy. Instead, it has been designed to demonstrate how your privacy might be breached, and how what you say could be used by search engines and advertising networks to make adverts that are even more targeted.

Let’s take a look at the evidence, and try to work out whether surveillance-driven advertising is really taking place, or if it is really nothing more than good, old-fashioned, coincidence.

When Your Phone Knows

Various users across the web have claimed that something fishy is going on with their phones. They believe that smartphone microphones are being used to record what they say, with the information used to better target Google ads How To Avoid The Dangers Of Online Advertisements Targeted At Kids How To Avoid The Dangers Of Online Advertisements Targeted At Kids You might think you're smart enough to dodge manipulative advertisements -- and maybe you are smart enough -- but what about children? Online ads are increasingly targeting younger and younger folks. What can we do? Read More on websites and Facebook.

It sounds unlikely, but the anecdotal evidence is quite compelling. BBC Technology Report Zoe Kleinman reports an occasion when she learned of a friend’s death in tragic circumstances, only to find that her friend’s name, the accident, location and year were in the Google search box on her phone.

Further stories on Reddit expand further, such as this from hawk8177:

i was talking to a friend about a med he takes, next day im getting ads about that med… i asked a friend something about the best way to defog car windows… the next day when i open youtube the very first suggestion for me to watch was how to defog windows!

Here’s another, from karlrocks23

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My SO and I were having a chat and I was telling her about a new Nespresso shop that opened up in the city and how nicely designed it was. I don’t like coffee that much, and I’ve never even tried Nespresso. That is the only time I can remember having a conversation about Nespresso to anyone and I’ve certainly never Googled it or anything.

The next day, all my ads on chrome were about Nespresso.. I have no issues with ads popping up related to things I’ve searched by voice or type. But it did feel a bit invasive being constantly listened to and for private conversations to be used as a means to target ads at me.

So many of these stories can be found on Reddit and beyond. This one, about a user noticing Google ads for everything he discussed with his wife, is particularly interesting, although too long to reproduce here.

My Own Experience

Back in 2015, I noticed a startling similarity between my Google Now recommendations (Google Now is a popular Google alternative to Siri 7 Siri Alternatives for Android: Google Now, Cortana, & More 7 Siri Alternatives for Android: Google Now, Cortana, & More There are a lot of personal assistant apps in the Play Store, so we help you sort through the best of them. Read More ) and news updates, and the shows I’d recently been watching. Keen to avoid spoilers Silencer: Avoid Spoilers & Other Crap on Twitter & Facebook Silencer: Avoid Spoilers & Other Crap on Twitter & Facebook Read More , I had resisted the temptation to search for anything about the programs, so it was a surprise to see them listed.


A few days later, I’d forgotten about this, until I noticed that after leaving my phone at my mum’s house, a bunch of new shows appeared in Google Now, along with the legend “Because of your interest in this show”. You’ll see two examples above: on the left, Fireman Sam, which often played on TV not far from my phone. On the right, British TV drama Heartbeat, selected because it was “Similar to Coronation Street” – a show watched in our house, but not Googled.

It won’t surprise you to learn that I don’t share the same taste in TV shows as my mum.

Google Now on Android offers precious little in the way of options that might disable the microphone, other than abandoning the launcher altogether. So to combat this, I’ve started leaving my phone in my home office when watching TV. At the very least, I get fewer interruptions, and the appearance on my phone of TV shows I’m watching — or are currently screening – has dropped to zero.

It does seem as though this is something more than coincidence. But can it be proven that smartphone mics How to Use Your Smartphone as a Windows Microphone How to Use Your Smartphone as a Windows Microphone A microphone is useful when you want to join a conversation online. What if your computer doesn't have one? Simply hook up your smartphone as a mic. Here's how. Read More are being used to collect data and target appropriate content at users?

What the App Does

To prove that other apps could be stealing data captured through your smartphone’s microphone, cybersecurity expert Ken Munro developed – with the help of David Lodge from Pen Test Partners – an app that would record what was being said in the vicinity of a phone, and display it on a PC monitor.

As Munro explained to the BBC,

“All we did was use the existing functionality of Google Android – we chose it because it was a little easier for us to develop in.”

“We gave ourselves permission to use the microphone on the phone, set up a listening server on the internet, and everything that microphone heard on that phone, wherever it was in the world, came to us and we could then have sent back customized ads.”

David Lodge went on to explain that much of the code was already available either within the OS or in the public domain, and it seems the experiment was achieved with minimal battery drain on the device How to Improve Battery Life on Android 6.0 Marshmallow How to Improve Battery Life on Android 6.0 Marshmallow Battery life is finicky, but with this trick, you can squeeze a lot more out of your Android 6.0 Marshmallow device. Read More .

Google “Categorically” Rejects Accusations

Google and Facebook have both denied that their apps can take advantage of smartphone microphones to gather information in this way. With Facebook telling the BBC that it blocks brands from advertising based on microphone data, and Google claiming “categorically” that it does not use any “utterances” from when the OK Google hotword OK Google Doesn’t Work In Your Country? Don't Worry, It Does Now OK Google Doesn’t Work In Your Country? Don't Worry, It Does Now One of the great new features of Android KitKat is OK Google, the voice command that prompts your phone to accept verbal questions. Let's make it work better. Read More is used, it seems unlikely that any of this really happens.

Additionally, Google developer policy — that all app developers must agree to — specifies that apps do not breach privacy in this way.

So what is going on? Are devices listening in? Are Google and Facebook using voice recognition software against us to make a profit? Or is it really all just coincidence? Have you had the uncanny feeling that what you just talked about has appeared as an ad on your phone? Tell us about it in the comments.

Image Credits:Realistic ear by Aleksandrs Bondars via Shutterstock

  1. listened to
    October 27, 2016 at 8:38 am

    No question about it, they listen in. Today in the grocery an older man needed help lifting something, I offered to do it because he was wearing a hat that resonated with me. He was in a unit that I was very familiar with, we started to talk a bit about out service days, mine were not long ago his were Korean war era. I never have a conversation with anyone about my service, ever! I get home one hour later, pull out my phone to see an ad for getting a military discount card from someone. These instances are reoccurring daily about conversations I have in person (only). Its consist in the last month. Always relating to a verbal conversation I have had. No coincidence here! Coincidences are almost never a coincidence.

  2. Stephanie
    October 22, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    I have definitely seen this happen, although I don't have a specific example coming to mind right now. What I HAVE noticed relates to the voice recorder app on my Android phone. I use it to record ideas, etc. and that's all well and good. Occasionally, though, I'll notice recordings that I never made, and when I listen to them, it's literally just the ambient noise of me going about my daily life. Sometimes the recordings are as long as an hour!

  3. Hannah
    October 22, 2016 at 2:53 am

    This has happened soooo many times that I found this article by searching about the microphones listening in to see if others were experiencing it as well. Just this evening, my daughter turned on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory while we were eating dinner, and we haven't seen it for at least a year. Since I've seen the movie several times, I was scrolling Facebook on my phone...and in my newsfeed is a sponsored ad for a Willy Wonka game WHILE we are still watching it. I don't EVER play games, and if you've seen the movie (the new one with Johnny Depp), you know they say "Willy Wonka" numerous times when talking about the candy bar, the factory, and so on. This is one of many many similar experiences I have had in which I didn't type in any search terms and was only speaking, and in this instance, it was picking up the dialogue on the TV in the room....can't wait to be a part of the class action suit when all this comes out!!

  4. Hannah
    October 22, 2016 at 2:50 am

    This has happened soooo many times that the reason I even found this article was by searching about the microphones listening in to see if others were experiencing it as well! Just this evening, my daughter turned on the movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" while we were eating dinner. We haven't seen it it about a year. Since I've seen the movie several times, I was scrolling Facebook...and in my newsfeed is a sponsored ad for a Willy Wonka game, WHILE the movie is still on. I don't EVER play games, and if you've seen the movie (the new one with Johnny Depp), you know they say "Willy Wonka" numerous times when talking about the candy bar, the factory, and so on. This is one of many many similar experiences I have had in which I didn't type in any search terms and was only speaking, and in this instance, it was picking up the dialogue on the TV in the room....can't wait to be a part of the class action suit when all this comes out!!

    • Christian Cawley
      October 22, 2016 at 9:34 pm

      Sponsored ad for a game while still watching? Excellent detail, thank you for sharing, Hannah.

  5. Kay
    October 21, 2016 at 2:05 am

    My son was talking to me about dropping out of college because he just couldn't focus. He mentioned a lot of kids that have that problem are on Aderall(?) and maybe we could look into it. A bit later I picked up my phone and right under the weather feed was a news story about his school (not local to us) and then an ad for antidepressants. I was positive I never searched for either thing on my phone! Also, another weird thing... I was at Trader Joes shopping when I heard my phone notification ding and it was an ad for what was on sale at Trader Joes. Is that because my Google location is on??? Both things very freaky.... I found this website after searching "smart phones listening to me". I was relieved to hear it's not just happening to me. Anyway, I'm about ready to dig out my old flop phone and start using that!

    • Christian Cawley
      October 21, 2016 at 8:49 am

      Thanks for sharing, Kay - we need all the testimonies we can find:)

  6. DB
    October 18, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    My wife and I looked at rugs on this past Sunday. On HER Samsung phone.

    We narrowed it down to 2 rugs. She called LL Bean and purchased one.

    On Tuesday I'm on my company PC at work and visited What appears? An LL Bean 300x250 ad banner showing the 2 rugs we narrowed our search to, one of which she purchased.

    See that ad banner was weird enough for me to do some Googling to try to figure out what's going on. I'm in digital marketing and know about behavioral targeting. This kind of targeting, if it isn't a coincidence, hit too close. It's creepy.

    • Christian Cawley
      October 19, 2016 at 7:15 am

      Yeh, that's definitely weird. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Kati
    October 17, 2016 at 4:21 am

    I was talking to my boyfriend of almost 5 years about the status of our relationship. We both agree that we're not going to get married, but we're committed to spending the rest of our lives together. From our time in Sweden together, we'd picked up this term, 'sambo' which is similar to a domestic partnership, and we both agreed that this best describes our relationship.

    Outside that conversation, I'd been thinking about getting a ring more to be respected at work since I'd read some research that people take women more seriously if they're married or engaged. I'd never googled either of these things before, though. The day after our sambo conversation, in which both my computer and my phone were in the room, an ad featuring a woman talking about how she may never marry her lover, but she'll love him forever popped up on my Chrome. It was an ad for De Beers rings. It blew my mind that it was being told basically from my perspective and a little scary that it may have matched my reading history about engagement rings and respect in the work place (probably from Facebook because it wasn't something that I actively looked for) to the sambo conversation. Chances of that being a coincidence are slim to none (I don't look up any jewelry at all).

  8. K. Nissl
    October 17, 2016 at 12:55 am

    I'm a molecular biology graduate student, and today in my lab another grad student and I were talking about something very specific and technical that I have never so much as thought about before: developing nanomachine probes for visualizing peptide or nucleotide sequences. Both my phone and my computer were a few feet away. Moments later, when I returned to my computer to google something utterly unrelated, the targeted ad that popped up was for "Llama nanoprobes". The odds of this happening by chance are slim to none, in my opinion.

    • Christian Cawley
      October 20, 2016 at 7:52 pm

      Well that's pretty compelling, isn't it?

  9. Branson
    October 14, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    I work at a phone store and was talking to a customer TV and he mentioned the SlingTV app which I had never heard of. I asked hime a bit more about it, but forgot about it. Later that night (and ever since that conversation) I have several SlingTV ads pop up when I'm using Chrome.

    In another case, I was talking to a family member in my own home about cloud storage services which I have never searched for because I use Google Drive. The next day I see the first ever cloud storage ad that I've seen come up on Chrome.

    Like others I've also noticed that when I've been talking to someone about a question and go to Google it my question will be suggested after typing only 3 or four letters. I'm not normally paranoid about stuff, but there's way too much evidence for this to be a coincidence in my opinion

    • Christian Cawley
      October 15, 2016 at 7:46 am

      A useful inclusion, Branson, thanks for adding it!

  10. Daniel Pike
    October 14, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    The other day i was asking my friend who the black actor was on the show,"Westworld" the engineer guy, I just could not place him in memory, yet know i had just seen him in a recent movie or something. I went to search for this information on google. I got as far as typing "Who is" . Amazingly the top suggestion was, "Who is the the black engineer that plays on westworld?" I had always suspected my android was listening to me but I now had a witness. I highly doubt that the most common search for typing in "who is" is for that guy. Who knows though, maybe he is the most mysteriously unknown actor in the world.

    • Christian Cawley
      October 14, 2016 at 7:33 pm

      Good share, Daniel, thanks for telling us about it.

  11. Donna Elliott
    October 10, 2016 at 12:16 am

    I was talking to my husband on a phone call about arthritis in my thumb and by that evening I had an ad for arthritis in my Yahoo email. This is no coincidence. How can we shut that off?

  12. Kelly
    October 9, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    I have an apple and it was on my desk at work. I hadn't touched it or activated Siri. The phone wasn't off just in 'sleep' mode. I was talking to a client on the phone. I had said "oh, I am so sorry to hear that." Siri turned on my phone and responded "That's ok Kelly". I am certain our phones are listening.

  13. Thomas mitchell
    October 9, 2016 at 1:11 am

    My wife and I were driving down the road and talking about dashcams. The next day I was getting ads for dashcams. I have never done a search for them anytime before talking about them in the vicinity of my phone. Another time we were talking about a medical clinic in our area and I started getting ads for that clinic. So yes the app is listening to you and picking out relevant words and sending you ads based on those keywords.

    • Christian Cawley
      October 9, 2016 at 8:46 pm

      Thanks for sharing that, Thomas.

  14. Dan
    October 7, 2016 at 2:40 am

    It happened just now. I had open in Safari on my MacBook. My daughter started telling me about a conversation she had at school with classmates about Ouija boards.

    Shortly after, I searched for some more classical music on youtube, found a video that looked interesting, clicked play, and was served up an ad for Ouija boards.

    Within hearing distance and powered on were the following:

    MacBook Pro (mentioned above)
    Amazon FireTV, with Voice-Recognition remote
    Apple Watch
    Two or three iPhones
    One iPad Air

    This felt very similar to something that happened about a year ago. We had the youtube app on the Amazon FireTV on. Someone spilled their drink on the carpet. I loudly said "Get the paper towels", and after we got it all cleaned up, I went back to perusing the recommended videos, and very oddly the first recommended video was an old paper towel commercial (e.g., an old Bounty commercial). That video was clearly not like the others recommended -- and I hadn't been searching at all for anything related.

    I just clicked "up" on the big circle on the Amazon Fire TV remote, and woke the screen up on my TV. Interestingly, the YouTube app on the Amazon Fire TV is what was running (earlier I had been watching youtube on my tv through the Amazon Fire TV).

    I am suspicious of the YouTube app on the Amazon Fire TV.

    • Christian Cawley
      October 7, 2016 at 9:15 am

      Excellent account, Dan, thanks for sharing.

  15. Jenny
    October 6, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    I made a dinner reservation on my phone, in a conversation last night for tonight. Just now I was emailing a friend that I was going to dinner tonight and a message appeared that said I had an appointment and it displayed the time of the dinner reservation. No where did I type the time.

  16. Darren
    October 5, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    In an office conversation today a colleague tells me he is replacing fascia and guttering on his house. Guess what ads are popping up on my phone this evening? A local supplier for fascia and guttering! I have never searched or discussed this on the phone before. Not the only example for me but today definitely proves to me this is a listening / tracking device.

    • Christian Cawley
      October 7, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Now that is a concerning account! Thank you for sharing, Darren.

  17. Ryan
    October 5, 2016 at 5:08 am

    I just spoke to a friend at work about her young son being bullied on the way home from school recently. My smart phone on my desk in front of us during the conversation. A minute later I opened Facebook on my PC to find an add for a Kids Smart Watch GPS Tracker with SOS alert function. Coincidence?

    • Christian Cawley
      October 7, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Do you think it was a coincidence, Ryan?

  18. RC
    September 28, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    My wife and I visited a small chain auto parts shop this weekend. While there she mentions that "we should get one of these", pointing to a portable jump starter kit. I turned and repeated aloud what the item was, agreeing we could get one for each car. We have never before seen or considered this item much less discussed it. This morning, on my Facebook page I was shocked to find an Amazon ad promoting -- you guessed it -- a portable jump starter kit. No such thing as coincidence. Back to the flip phone for me...

  19. RC
    September 28, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    This weekend at a small chain auto parts shop, my wife made mention to me that we should consider getting "one of these" and pointed to a portable jump starter set. I repeated what they were, aloud, and agreed, suggesting we could get one for each car. this morning, on Facebook, I received an Amazon pop-up ad for a portable jump-starter. Never before mentioned. Never before considered. Never before seen. No such thing as coincidence. Going back to flip phone...

  20. Jason Smith
    September 26, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Last night we had friends over and were just hanging out. Somehow a joke or conversation mentioned the movie Of Mice and Men. We were talking about who starred in it, so I opened my iPhone and typed "of" into the search bar of Safari. The first suggestion was Of Mice and Men. A 1982 movie, above Of Monsters and Men and a ton of other more current and popular searches. I tried to reproduce that search on other phones and devices with Google and Safari, but that suggestion never comes up at all, let alone at the top. This wasn't even a paid ad, just a search suggestion in my Safari app. But WTF, they are really listening to our mics all the time. Very creepy!

    • Christian Cawley
      September 27, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Jason.

  21. Chris
    September 25, 2016 at 4:53 am

    A friend called me today and asked me if I've heard of ROKU .. I had not. He told me what it was and that was that. I never searched it or texted it before or after that moment. Within 2 hours I am presented a ROKU ad on my phone in chrome.

    We need another Wiki leak or snowden to make this public.

    • Christian Cawley
      September 27, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      Great example there, Chris, thank you!

  22. Stewart Lanier
    September 23, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    My wife and I were in the car driving somewhere out of our area, but within Massachusetts. I was using my phone for gps. She was not using her phone but it was on her lap. A tanker truck with name Evergreen Environmental passed us. My wife said, "what do you suppose Evergreen Environmental does with their tanker truck?" I did my best to mansplain this and that was the end of it. She did not google or search for it. In the afternoon on the return trip she had an Evergreen Environmental ad on FB. This is not a type of service we have ever used or searched for.

    • Christian Cawley
      September 27, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      Wow, another top example. Thanks for taking the time, Stewart.

  23. Shawn
    September 23, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    Ice skates came up after my wife mentioned ice skating in the car, male long sleeve dress shirts after a call to my mom, and boots after a kitchen conversation. Nothing I have done a google search for in countless months. Never for ice skates.
    I am wondering if it's an app or malware. Not google or facebook, but a something more obscure.

  24. Lee
    September 23, 2016 at 12:25 am

    I was talking about a Ted Baker dress which was too big for me (despite being a size zero!) to my Mam today, I have never googled or typed or I putted anything involving Ted Baker into my phone but lo and behold, that evening I was bombarded with Google and Facebook ads for Ted Baker dresses. Specifically, white ones, like the one I was discussing earlier that day.
    Another time my boyfriend and I were sat discussing testosterone injections, gender dysphoria and a specific psychologist. I had at this point never googled any of these things or typed them into my phone or anything like that. The next day I am seeing ads for that exact psychologist, testosterone injections and gender identity support groups.
    Another time I can remember I was watching binge watching Orange Is The New Black with my phone nearby. I was watching through my Virgin Media box which has no bearing on my wifi connection or my phone or anything else. That night I am seeing adverts for the show, seeing adverts which said things like "similar to Orange Is The New Black" and thinking that it has to be way more than just a coincidence.
    There are far too many instances to mention but I will mention this last one. One time I was discussing a show I had seen and loved at the West End (Love Never Dies) and of course the very next morning I am bombarded with advertisements trying to sell me tickets or merchandise :/
    My phone is definitely listening to me. I only wish I could turn the mic completely off!!

    • Christian Cawley
      September 27, 2016 at 8:17 pm

      Very concerning! Thanks for sharing Lee.

  25. capt14k
    September 20, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    My parents ran out of gas in a restaurant parking lot. They called and ask me to bring them a can of gas because my father didn't want to buy another can at gas station. I never searched restaurant or gas cans and I wasn't in the area. A friend of mine saw them and helped them. I never texted about it. This happened Sunday. Today I wake up to google asking me to review the restaurant and ads for red gas cans are on websites. My parents phone is on a different plan than mine. Something had to have listened to the phone call. What apps beside Google would do this?

  26. Lisa J
    September 19, 2016 at 5:40 am

    My husband told me tonight of a product his physical therapist recommended. I have never googled such an item. Less than two hours later an ad for the exact thing showed up in my Instagram feed! Crazy stuff. Btw, I googled "is my phone listening to my conversations" and this article came up.

    • Christian Cawley
      September 19, 2016 at 1:11 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Lisa. Always a disconcerting experience!

  27. Rox
    September 18, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Had my Samsung on my desk at work while scheduling an appointment last week. The next day Facebook ads appeared on my wall for that same doctor, who I had never heard of before...

    • Christian Cawley
      September 19, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      Hi Rox, this is useful as it shows that little is out of bounds here. Thank you for sharing.

  28. David
    September 12, 2016 at 4:56 am

    I came home 30 minutes ago, and noticed the garage door was open with the lights on. I went downstairs to check with my dad, and see if he was still in the middle of something or had simply forgotten to close the garage door.

    Within ten minutes of that short conversation, I check my Yahoo mail and have a layed advertisement for Garage Door Openers. I have never typed any such thing into google, and am mortified to think about how much of my daily life is being recorded, transcribed, and/or stored without my consent. Sickening.

    • Christian Cawley
      September 19, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      Thanks for sharing this account, David.

  29. Concerned
    September 5, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Just ended up here through a google search. (Can be helpful sometimes). I was hanging out with a freind 2 nights ago, and he was showing me his 3D printer. I have never seen our heard of one before, and i did not google anything about it. Sure enough, i have a Facebook add for one today.....

  30. Kris
    September 2, 2016 at 7:11 am

    My girlfriend and I joined a gym last weekend. Since then I've been searching my home for a particular pair of tracksuit bottoms (with a particular brand that I won't mention here), constantly telling my girlfriend "Hey I still haven't found those popular branded tracksuit bottoms."

    For the past two days those exact same branded tracksuit bottoms keep appearing in ads on almost every page I visit. WTF?!?

    Seriously considering giving up the smart phone and going back to basics.

  31. Louis
    September 2, 2016 at 6:07 am

    Yeah very weird i could swear that if im about to type something in my phone comes up with full phrase with about one word and does seem to be on google searches, i.e i watch alot of medical stuff, i was about to read up on foetal........ It had already got foetel alcohol syndrome, bloody weird

  32. Sherri
    August 31, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Happens all the time with husbands android phone. I have never noticed the issue with my iPhone. The most random one was last night. We had to work on our semi and needed wd40 to get a bolt loose. I verbally said I will run to store and get some WD40. About two hours later an ad for WD40 popped up
    On my husband's Facebook on his phone. They are lying and it really irritates me. I want to shut the microphone off somehow. Is there a way? He like to use it to text with though.

  33. Me
    August 21, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Obama hired top execs from Google his first year (actually months) in office. I saw it on the national news. I also saw that Google received Government Funds right on our USDA website when they were closed down waiting on budget fiascal. Now internet is supposed to be moved out of the U.S. By Oct 1st. Folks...we are in trouble...

  34. Jeannie Baxter
    August 18, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    In my DOCTOR's office one day discussing an unusual topic, the next day an ad appears in my Facebook newsfeed addressing a solution. I've never performed a keyboard search or a voice search on my phone. This is just wrong.

    • Christian Cawley
      August 30, 2016 at 3:39 pm

      Useful account, Jeannie, thanks for sharing.

  35. Sajith Kumar
    August 18, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Strange that many people are having same issue. For me its not ad, I am getting emails direct to my inbox within 24 hours of my conversation or chat. It happened to me yesterday that I was having some health issues and I just discussed with my friend asking whether it could be any thyroid issue? In less than 24 hours I got an email from a blood test laboratory with title as "These could be reasons for Thyroid" and a detailed description. How can we stop this? Throw away the phone?

    • Christian Cawley
      August 30, 2016 at 3:39 pm

      A fascinating new dimension, thanks Sajith!

  36. glamaina
    August 17, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Happens to me all the time.

    My wife tells me verbally that we need dog food, next day dog food ads on facebook

    My 3 year old cousin tells me he went to DInosaur Land, next day dinosaur land ads on facebook

    Just yesterday someone at work told me they bought an H20 Ninja mask for scuba diving. I had never heard of it and today on is a google ad for the Ninja

    Once or twice maybe, but this happens all the time. It cant be coincidence. They are listening to everything.

    • Christian Cawley
      August 30, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      Nice examples, thanks!

  37. Dallas
    August 10, 2016 at 12:18 pm

    My kids and I were watching octonauts on TV . All of sudden an ad pops up on fb for octonauts toy. My husband and I will be talking about things and it happens alot. I'm scared

  38. Andrew M.
    August 9, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    The other day we were hanging out at a bar and a friend of ours told us she was pregnant, and told us all about how she found out (home pregnancy test) and all. We go back home, turn on Instagram and next thing we see is an ad for home pregnancy test (which of course we never had in our feed, ever).

  39. wade
    August 5, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    I was talking to mom about water bottles. She specifically mentioned a "Contigo" brand water bottle. I have NEVER searched for such a thing.

    Later that evening I was browsing on and there was ad for Contigo water bottles on the side frame of the web page.

    I was surprised/shocked. That is how I ended upon this page. It doesn't seem like I had a unique experience though. Google is everywhere!

  40. Alecky
    August 3, 2016 at 12:23 am

    I was talking with a friend today in my kitchen, maybe 10 feet from my phone. Her mother is a runner and I mentioned that I wished I could run more; I also used the words "interval training." I never discuss or search for either term; in fact, I don't think I've used the term "interval training" in years. Three hours later, an ad for a running app that emphasizes interval training popped up on my Facebook feed.

    • Christian Cawley
      August 3, 2016 at 8:24 am

      Another great testimony. Thanks Alecky.

  41. John
    August 2, 2016 at 8:43 am

    At first I thought Google may be displaying ads based on your proximity with someone else. For example, if you are close enough to someone for an extended period of time, some comparison could be made between your mutual friends, interests, etc. And then a somewhat accurate guess could be made as to which ads you should see.

    However, this is all shaken up now... I had a conversation with someone about a new dating app and we both did not have our phones at the time. A few hours later I was getting ads for this dating app and I haven't dated in 5 years and am not planning to in the foreseeable future. So there really isn't any reason I should be seeing anything dating related, and haven't ever before this. Coincidence?

    I never mentioned anything about dating or the app around my phone after this conversation either.

    I wonder if maybe at some point later this other individual in the conversation mentioned the app again around their phone and location data was used to still pin us close enough together that day. Or maybe just using their common search history and displaying similar ads on my end based on proximity is the reason.

    Either way, this is all quite complex logic, but people out there do have the data and resources to make this happen. It seems like a combination of things is at play.

  42. Dez
    July 30, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    This past Thursday I had a conversation with a colleague while we were driving. We were discussing literature and I brought up the Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Pretty mundane and obscure. This morning while perusing Google News, something about the Handmaid's Tale turned up in the 'Suggestions for you' section. Hard to imagine this is a coincidence!

    • Christian Cawley
      July 31, 2016 at 6:45 pm

      That one is pretty compelling, thanks for sharing, Dez!

  43. Brian
    July 23, 2016 at 12:19 am

    I was just speaking to my wife and mentioned that I wished Wegmans was closer to us. A moment later I checked FB and the first thing I see is a ad for Wegmans. It's what brought me to this article.

    • Christian Cawley
      July 23, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      Glad you found us, Brian! Thanks for sharing, another useful report.

  44. John
    July 4, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    I had a phone conversation with someone on my Android phone an hour ago. The person asked for a mutual friend's mobile number since they didn't have their address book handy since moving house. I said that I'd text the person's number to them, mentioning the person's name. At the end of the phone call there was a dialog box on the android screen offering a link to press to access the person's mobile number to send it. I wish it had stayed on the screen long enough for me to screenshot it. I don't have OK Google activated. I checked by Google voice recordings and there are none. This is not just disturbing, but worrying. Who might have access to this information in the future, and how will it be used or misused?

  45. ANON
    July 3, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    I googled this occurence specifically so feel compelled to add. Driving home today with my wife and brother in law, my BIL mentions he needs some sudafed. I never take sudafed, and would never search it. I later get on the home PC and all the ads on a forum I visit are for Sudafed...WTH....

  46. Nols
    July 2, 2016 at 4:58 am

    This happens to me all the time. Any conversation I have, I will then get ads or emails on phone for whatever topic I was discussing. I say to my husband and friends all the time that my phone is listening to my conversations. It is not a coincidence.

  47. relizo
    July 1, 2016 at 8:43 am

    I told a lyft driver less than a week ago an anecdote about having gotten food poisoning from subway. Today I got a subway ad on hulu, one I had never gotten previously before.

    This happens all the time. If not half, a good 40% of the ads I get these days I can trace back to conversations that happened exclusively verbally.

    Google searches leading to ads is one thing... When I had pink eye a few months back it was within the same day of realizing I had it that I was getting bombarded with video ads about pink eye treatments. But I also probably googled related topics a lot so you know.. Sure.

    But some of these ~off the grid~ convos so blatantly resulting in ads is a little too much.

  48. CT
    June 29, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Hey I'm a Web/Android software engineer and I have an old Galaxy2. The only social app I have installed on it is Twitter and I got rid of Facebook last November, due to the ads and it being a waste of time.

    What needs to happen is someone needs to capture the traffic from their phone via WiFi sniffing and run tests that way. I'd do it, but I'm swamped with other projects.

    Meaning, one's phone needs to be in 3g mode with wireless internet turned on, so the internet traffic is flowing through one's own router.

    My accounts...I don't know where to begin to start there are so many but I didn't write them down. Just the other day I joked about being "deaf" because I have trouble hearing people sometimes when other noises trump what they say. I haven't searched for hearing aides, as it's not really a big problem in my life.

    Just this morning I had an ad show on YouTube for hearing aides.

    Since I'm kinda paranoid I almost always use Chrome in incognito mode (CTRL+SHIFT+N, no cookie tracking) to not track my frivolous searches. The real searches I don't mind, such as research and development, that's fine so I use the normal mode. So point being, I pulled up youtube while in Chrome's incognito mode, pulled up a video and boom..hearing aide advertisement.

    Bulls**t. Heinous bulls**t.

  49. steve
    June 25, 2016 at 5:31 am

    Sitting at an airport last week I was chatting to a friend and was asked where I lived. I responded with my hometown of phone was in the top pocket of my shirt and instantly I got a text message alert.
    All it was was a link with the title "Message for Kingsley" intrigued I clicked on the link and got directed to an ad for Aldi supermarket that had just opened in a suburb close to Kingsley.
    Big Brother is out there!!!

    • Christian Cawley
      June 25, 2016 at 5:14 pm

      Superb account, thanks Steve

  50. Christian Cawley
    June 23, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Keep these accounts coming, people. The more we have, the bigger a deal we can make about it.

  51. Paulette
    June 20, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    On Father's Day I was sitting on my dads back porch and having random conversations with him and other family members. The very next day I got emails about everything we talked about.
    1. He needed to build a chicken yard for my great nieces baby chickens. (Got 2 emails about that)
    2. Many yrs. ago someone flew my dad to D.C. On their private Lear jet. (Email about chartering a private I could afford that)
    3. Talked about family history and ancestors being from Ireland (got email on packaged trips to Ireland)
    4. Talked about me thinking my crazy ass son-in-law having ADHD (email on dealing with adult ADHD)
    All of these emails were received the next morning (which happened to be this morning). I don't mind telling you it freaked me out and it pisses me off royally. So....I sat my phone down on my car seat and said "ok, SOB send me an email about who to call to sue your ass for listening to my private conversations".

  52. Ann
    June 20, 2016 at 2:57 am

    ive had this happen to me three times over the past 3 days.

    Yesterday I was talking with my mother about Expedia and the next time i turned on my phone and checked Instagram an Expedia ad came up.
    The day prior I mentioned to my coworker I was looking into getting a new car and then opened my phone and a car ad appeared on my Facebook feed
    Today I was on the phone with my sister about where should could purchase a new computer and I mentioned BestBuy, immediately after I hung up a best buy ad appears on my Facebook feed.

    Coincidence my ass, how do I get them to stop listening I've turned off all my apps access to my microphone but it is still happening.

    • Christian Cawley
      June 20, 2016 at 8:19 am

      Thanks for sharing, Ann. The more stories we can get on this, the better!

    • Frank
      June 23, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      Its at least once a week that I get an advertisement on Instagram about something I talked about a day or two before seeing the ad. I always screenshot them and send them to my friend.
      The most recent one was I went to a bar with a family member and mentioned to them that a few hours earlier I had noticed dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep. Two days later I get an advertisement on Instagram about an eye cream specifically for dark circles.
      It's happened so many times that I'm to the point that I refuse to believe its coincidence. I've almost made note of my web history vs what I've talked about to make sure it wasn't from search history.
      I'm considering buying a phone case with a cover over the microphone or covering the microphone when not using it and comparing advertisements month to month with the microphone covered vs uncovered.

      • Frank
        June 23, 2016 at 5:32 pm

        That should say "ive also made note of my web history"

      • Christian Cawley
        June 23, 2016 at 7:37 pm

        Thanks Frank, very useful to know.

  53. Raquel
    June 11, 2016 at 4:40 am

    This happened to me. I was at a friends house and she showed me a shutterfly calendar. I never used or looked up shutterfly but for the next several days all I got in my phone was shutter fly ads!

    • Christian Cawley
      June 11, 2016 at 7:42 am

      Thanks for sharing Raquel, always good to get more evidence, anecdotal or otherwise.

  54. Leetness
    April 18, 2016 at 5:50 am

    I once was researching smartphones for a few hours then decided to go to walmart to buy one. Right when I walked in the door an ad for /just the phone I was planning on buying/ appeared on TV in front of the entryway. I really hope it was just coincidence

  55. Bernadette
    March 18, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    I think Employers use this also. My husbands employer insisted he should have an Android Smartphone. After of couple of weeks I told my husband my brother had bought a new car. Not from the dealership he works at. The next morning he was getting questioned about my brothers purchase. Since then I told him to turn it off before he comes in the house.

    • Christian Cawley
      June 11, 2016 at 7:43 am

      This is concerning in a quite different way!

  56. Stephanie
    March 14, 2016 at 6:46 am

    What happens at our house is we will be talking to each other about something and one of us will say, "let's Google it!" So, I start typing and within 2 or 3 letters, the first thing in the drop-down list is the topic we were discussing! We have jokingly said that Google has mics in our home or something and maybe all along, it was our phones? I expect to see related ads when I have purposely been looking for a product on the internet. It doesn't surprise me when after I have been shopping for shoes on Amazon, that later on all other sites, I see ads for the shoes I was looking for. That makes sense to me but how does Google know what I am going to ask it?

    • Christian Cawley
      March 14, 2016 at 8:40 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Stephanie, it's good - if discouncerting - to see that other people are experiencing the same things...

  57. Shore Patrol
    March 12, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Bullticky, Have these CEO's and the developers go before a congressional panel and swear under oath that none if this is occurring. To purger oneself at this level is indeed a risky undertaking!

  58. l_mckeon
    March 11, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    It should be easy enough to test.

    Hold your phone near the TV while it's playing the theme song of something you wouldn't normally watch, or complain about some ailment (with lots of commercial meds available) and see what turns up.

    • Christian Cawley
      March 12, 2016 at 2:06 pm

      I would encourage everyone to try this and see what turns up. It not be straightaway when you see something in Google Noew, however.

  59. Alan Stephens
    March 11, 2016 at 4:14 am

    I really wouldn't be surprised to find out that, "In the interests of national security", implementations of this technology, other than targeted advertising, were being utilised also.

    World domination would after all be near impossible for someone who hadn't first honed their skills at Angry Birds or mastered the art of pretending to listen to cruel and cunning schemes whilst inwardly smiling and hitting Like at all those cute pictures of kittens on Facebook.

    "Just 'cos you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you" ;)

  60. Jim Gibson
    March 10, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    All apps we download from Google play store require certain permissions one of those is the microphone. What possible use would any organisation need with the use of your microphone other than to listen to what you say and then target you with adverts from the information they record.

  61. Kannon Yamada
    March 10, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Really great read. Most phones include a special listening core which isn't functional at the hardware level (on most phones). A lot of developers, like Facebook, had problems with enabling constant 24-7 listening because it kills the battery, rendering the app useless. So they came up with a workaround. The phone only listens when you make a post. In Facebook's opinion, this time frame was important because they were interested in what music or TV shows users were watching/listening to while using Facebook.

    The thing is, though, that listening cores will eventually be enabled on all phones, meaning you can expect 24/7 listening in the near future. I'm trying to find an engineer to interview, but it's looking grim.

  62. Peter Fitzsimmons
    March 6, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    This is a very curious phenomenon and whilst I am in no way an expert on these matters, I always jut assumed it was because I was very boring and predictable.

    • Christian Cawley
      March 6, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      Well, there's nothing particularly wrong with that assumption. Perhaps those that have noticed anything strange here are simply far more boring than we think we are!

  63. fcd76218
    March 5, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    " Or is it really all just coincidence?"
    As Auric Goldfinger, one of James Bond's adversaries, was fond of saying "Once is happenstance, Twice is coincidence, Three times is enemy action."

    • Christian Cawley
      March 5, 2016 at 8:36 pm

      Superb quote!

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