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Beware, smartphone games could be tracking you and your environment

What if you were told that the innocent looking game you were trying out the other day was scanning ambient noise around you to let some third-party service?

  • Published: January 4, 2018 9:54 AM IST
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It’s very likely you already know that online services are constantly mining your data. Information about you is fetched continuously all the time. Data security and data privacy are terms we’ve all heard too often. We understand when services such as Google read context of your email to deliver ads. We’ve to quite an extent gone blind to it. We expect a company such as Google that is so deeply entrenched in the business of advertising to use every possible opportunity to display an ad.

But what if you were told that the innocent looking game you were trying out the other day was scanning ambient noise around you to let some third-party service or TV service know what TV commercial you were watching? Doesn’t help, right?

According to NYT, a few games – Pool 3D, Beer Pong: Trickshot, and Real Bowling Strike 10 Pin – all casual games use access to your device’s microphone to do its own thing in the background. The report points to software by a company called Alphonso Software that identifies audio signals in TV commercials and television shows. The software goes on to map the commercial you are watching, with places you visit, and movies you watch. The company gives advertisers the ability to track if the footfall they receive at business and retail outlets were driven by their potential customers watching commercials prior to stepping in.

The report also adds that currently there are 250 games that use this software, and are currently available on the Google Play Store. What’s intriguing is that these games can continue to hear ambient noise and derive the commercials you are watching even when your phone is tucked away, and the apps are only running in the background.

Earlier this week we read reports of Google Chrome extensions that were running cryptocurrency mining services in the background. Even in those cases, the extensions were really serving purposes as mundane as Tumblr blog reposting.

The company’s CEO Ashish Chordia is quoted in the report as saying that users opt-in fully aware, and can opt-out at any time. So the next time you accept terms and conditions for the app you download while you’re bored, go through the permission requests carefully.

This is reason enough to rethink the apps and extensions we’re using. Online safety and data security is our own responsibility. But we also hope Google does more to curb the menace of rogue apps, developers and extension on its respective app stores for the various platforms it operates it.

  • Published Date: January 4, 2018 9:54 AM IST