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Is your smartphone really listening to your conversations?

If you've ever had that feeling that your smartphone is listening to your conversations or tracking what you're looking at, you're not alone.

Here's how much your phone is monitoring you, and what you can do to stop it.   

You talk about something with your phone nearby, and next thing you know you're seeing ads about that same item While it may seem like your phone is always listening, Consumer Reports says that's probably not the case.

"This is something that researchers have looked at a lot," said Bree Fowler, Consumer Reports tech editor. "And despite all those weird feelings, they've yet to find any evidence that phones and the apps on them are actually recording or listening to your conversations."

Instead, Consumer Reports says your phone has much more efficient ways to figure out what you're talking about and what you're interested in without ever recording a conversation. 

"Researchers have found that apps on phones will do things like take screenshots or use your GPS to track where you're going," said Fowler. "Or even collect video of what you're doing on your phone. And all of this can be used to create targeted ads."

So how do you explain having a conversation about something and then seeing an ad for it on your phone?

"Chances are you probably did a Google search for those shoes," said Fowler. "Or maybe you mapped out directions to a shoe store."

The amount of information companies have about each of us is staggering, but Consumer Reports says one way to limit the access they have is to avoid using the universal sign-on features offered by Facebook and Google. 

 Another thing you can do is monitor the permissions you give each app on your phone. For example, if an app doesn't need to know your location, consider denying access for that.


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