According to a report recently published by the New York Times, it appears that hundreds of mobile games come with a functionality that taps into a mobile device’s microphone in order to capture audio signals from television programs, films, and even commercials. This particular software feature is said to be developed by a startup firm called Alphonso who is reportedly even taking full advantage of Shazam in identifying the audio being monitored. The compiled information is then sold to advertisers who are looking to target a specific demographic based on TV watching habits.
As explained by Alphonso, the software does not keep track of human conversations and speech. Furthermore, the company has stated that its policy of keeping track of audio signals is actually included in mobile app descriptions and privacy policies. On top of that, the mobile users themselves will have to agree to have their handset’s microphone (as well as location services) made accessible to the apps using Alphonso’s software before any collection of data can take place. As pointed out by Ashish Chordia, the chief executive officer of Alphonso, app users are free to opt in or opt out whenever they please.
Alphonso has also revealed that there are about a thousand mobile apps that currently make full use of its software. At the time of the New York Times’ report, it had identified more than 250 game apps from Google Play that come with Alphonso’s feature. Presumably, there are a number of mobile games from Apple’s App Store that also utilizes the software.
And quite interestingly, it appears that some of the tracking is being done by way of apps that do not even tap into a device’s microphone. The New York Times reports that Alphonso’s software can recognize audio even a handset is placed inside the user’s pocket, that is as long as the app using the software is running in the background.
Alphonso is far from being the only company to harness the latest technology in order to harvest consumer related data and try to sell it to advertisers. While it is true that more and more people are watching video content from mobile devices now than ever, a lot still prefer to sit in front of a boob tube. As a matter of fact, the report from the New York Times states that television still attracts close to $70 billion in spending on a yearly basis in America.
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