Tech

How to Stop Your Phone From Listening to You

Whether you've got an iPhone or an Android device, here's a step-by-step guide to safeguarding your privacy
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Is your phone secretly listening to you all the time? It’s unlikely, but we don't blame you if you're a bit paranoid. Consumer trust is at an all-time low, and tech’s insinuation into our lives is becoming ever more intimate. Just this year, Apple came under fire for allowing contractors to hear Siri recordings of private conversations and, in some cases, people having sex.

They promised to change their policy in the aftermath, but it’s somewhat inevitable that, with the rise of AI and digital assistants, troubling privacy breaches will continue to make headlines. Silicon Valley's lack of transparency doesn't help, either.

If the stockpiling of voice data does concern you, then you’re not completely powerless to stop it. Smartphone developers all offer you the option to remove voice functionality from your device and control exactly what permissions your apps hold, and it’ll only take a few minutes to do so.

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To help you out, here's a step-by-step guide to ensuring that you're in control of what your handset listens in on, from iPhones to Android devices:

iPhone

Photo by SOPA IMAGES / GETTY IMAGES.
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It's not just Siri that's interested in what you have to say. Unbeknownst to many of us, first and third-party apps will often request access to your microphone (even ones that have seemingly no reason to need it). It's easy to mindlessly click through a selection of app permission requests without fully understanding what you've agreed to, so it's best to have a look see at what's been let through the door.

To stop apps using your microphone:

  • Tap ‘Settings’
  • Tap ‘Privacy’
  • Tap ‘Microphone’
  • Check which apps you’ve granted microphone access to and deselect when needed.

    To turn off Siri on iOS 12 & 11:

    • Tap ‘Settings’
    • Tap ‘Siri & Search’
    • Deselect ‘Listen for “Hey Siri”’, ‘Press Home for Siri’ and ‘Allow Siri When Locked’
    • Tap ‘Turn Off Siri’ when the prompt appears

      To turn off Siri on iOS 10:

      • Tap ‘Settings’
      • Tap ‘General’
      • Tap ‘Siri’
      • Tap ‘Turn Off Siri’

        To turn off dictation:

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        • Tap ‘Settings’
        • Tap ‘General’
        • Tap ‘Keyboard’
        • Deselect ‘Enable Dictation’

        Google Pixel

        Photo by DREW ANGERER / GETTY IMAGES.
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        To stop apps using your microphone:

        • Tap ‘Settings’
        • Tap ‘Privacy’
        • Tap ‘Permissions Manager’
        • Tap ‘Microphone’
        • Tap any app under the ‘ALLOWED’ subheading that you want to cut microphone access for.

          To stop Google Assistant:

          • Tap ‘Settings’
          • Tap ‘Apps & Notifications’
          • Tap ‘Assistant’
          • Deselect ‘Google Assistant’

          To stop Google’s ‘Now Playing’ feature:

          You can’t, really, but you can stop it appearing on your lock screen and prompting notifications. Google says song information is never transmitted to the company, and it even works offline due to the fact that it stores data locally (unlike apps like Shazam).

          To remove 'Now Playing' from your lock screen:

          • Tap ‘Settings’
          • Tap ‘Sound’
          • Tap ‘Now Playing’
          • Deselect ‘Show songs on lock screen’
          • To see a list of all the songs your phone has picked up, tap ‘Now Playing History’

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          Android

          Photo by NURPHOTO / GETTY IMAGES.

          To stop “OK Google” Voice Assistant on Android:

          • Tap ‘Settings’
          • Tap ‘Google’
          • Tap ‘Search’ under the ‘Services’ header

            To listen to your Google recordings:

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            • Login to Google’s ‘My Activity’ page (a database of your web activity, YouTube history, location history and much more)
            • Tap filter by ‘Date & Product’
            • Tap ‘Deselect All’
            • Tap ‘Voice & Audio’
            • Tap apply
            • Tap on ‘Voice and Audio’ above the file you want
            • Tap ‘View recording’ and play

            This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.

            * Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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