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BLOG: Snooping: It's not a crime, it's a feature

Mike Elgan | April 17, 2011
New apps hijack the microphone in your cell phone to listen in on your life.

It turns out that, thanks to sophisticated pattern-recognition software, harvested sounds from your home, office or environment can be transformed into marketing demographic gold.

You should know that any data that can be gathered, will be gathered. Since the new microphone-hijacking apps are still around, we now know that listening in on users is OK. So, what's possible with current technology?

By listening in on your phone, capturing "patterns," then sending that data back to servers, marketers can determine the following:

  • Your gender, and the gender of people you talk to.
  • Your approximate age, and the ages of the people you talk to.
  • What time you go to bed, and what time you wake up.
  • What you watch on TV and listen to on the radio.
  • How much of your time you spend alone, and how much with others.
  • Whether you live in a big city or a small town.
  • What form of transportation you use to get to work.

All this data and more, plus the UDI on your phone, could enable advertising companies to send you very narrowly targeted advertising for products and services that you're likely to want.

The future of marketing is contextual. And listening in on your life will enable marketers to deeply understand not only who and where you are, but also what you're paying attention to.

How do you feel about cellphone apps listening in on your life? If you'd like to tell me, I'm listening, too.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. Contact and learn more about Mike at Elgan.com, or subscribe to his free e-mail newsletter, Mike's List.

 

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