Saturday, June 10, 2017

Signal to Noise

Updates on the tech front. Devious stuff here.

More Android phones than ever are covertly listening for inaudible sounds in ads
May 2017, Ars Technica

There is a software called SilverPush that uses inaudible sounds embedded into TV commercials to secretly track you. This article says there are about 200 very popular Android apps that use it. (Very popular means downloaded millions of times.)

So your TV (and radio I assume? Wait, nobody listens to the radio anymore, Pandora, Spotify, etc.) emits "beacons," which are supersonic signatures of the commercial, which are then "heard" by this software via the microphone of your phone, but not heard by you.

This allows marketers to track the location of their listeners. Since the TV can't tell them who is listening to the commercials coming out of it, they let your phone do that instead. Now the advertisers who made the commercial can find out if you're near a retailer, for example, or exactly where you are in a department store.

I have to mention here, for folks who don't catch this - the fact that your phone is a -mobile- device has everything to do with its absolutely critical value to consumerism. You might not think it's important, but that data point (your location/time) is worth a lot to advertisers who are trying to understand their market. When you turn off your gps, or do-not-allow an app to access your location data, you're turning off the number one revenue channel for that app (which is why most apps simply won't work without it, or in this case, without accessing your microphone). I'm not trying to get people to disable their locations, or to not use apps that want your location, just saying - you should know how this ecosystem works, because you're a part of it!

This can also be used to push coupons to you when you're near a certian store. Nifty, huh? (?)

Oh, it gets way better, because they also use a cross-tracking application that ties your data with that of every other device around you. You remember those charts explaining what the NSA is doing with your data? It's like that, but for consumerism, not terrorism.

This info comes from a paper published at the 2nd annual IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy.


How Burger King revealed the hackability of voice assistants
May 2017,

"Voice assistants such as Google Home, Apple's Siri and Amazon's Echo devices have always been susceptible to accidental hijack. A Google ad during the Super Bowl that used the phrase "OK, Google" reportedly set off people's devices. And in a January story that briefly turned a family into media celebrities, a woman's 6-year old daughter ordered a dollhouse and sugar cookies simply by asking Amazon's voice assistant Alexa for them."

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