Is your phone listening to you?

Is your phone listening to you?

A few weeks ago, I got chatting to a client about potential products to test in research on WhatsApp. Shortly afterward, I received a ‘people you know’ notification from Facebook, asking me to befriend the client. (Which is cool, but you know, neither of us had interacted here) And then a tonne of ads, related to the products and brands we had chatted about on Instagram.

Weird hey? Cue panic and conspiracy theories. ‘My phone is listening to me’ I remember saying, to my husband. ‘Don’t be daft’ was the retort. But seriously, it felt like it. How does social media do this? It’s got to be listening right?

No. It’s not. I’m no data or tech expert.  But I know, that the pesky little algorithms that Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp use are stalking me.  And stalking you.

Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are all entwined. When Facebook purchased WhatsApp for an eye-watering amount of money, everyone asked ‘why?’

WhatsApp isn’t a money-generating platform, it’s a messaging platform. There aren’t any ads on WhatsApp (well not yet). But there is a lot of data. And you know how the maxim goes: when the service is free, you are not the customer. You are the product.

With the arrival of WhatsApp for business. You will soon start to see ads in users’ statuses. Facebook and WhatsApp are tracking everything you do on your phone. They aren’t listening. They are tracking. They have your contacts list. And your photos. And your locations. It’s all a bit spooky. It leaves you feeling paranoid.

But there are alternatives:

Signal – Open source, free, secure and private instant messaging. Much like WhatsApp used to be. There is a handy desktop app, which means it’s versatile for using for work.

Signal also has a feature where you can configure messages or threads to self-destruct after a set time – a la Mission Impossible.

Another reassuring feature is ‘Screen Security’ – it essentially blocks other apps on your phone from taking screenshots of your chats on Signal. Yes. That can happen.

Signal has also promised that there won’t be any ads. Which means that data mining your conversations, is less likely.

Threema:  Is a paid-for app. Not ridiculous, at just £2.99

Threema has a strong pledge to be ad-free. Forever. All development and data are held in house. Threema doesn’t require a phone number or email address, so you can be anonymous (and not tracked).

The features are pretty nifty too. You can send text, voice messages, files. Standard I know. But, you can also create polls and use Threema on your desktop. Handy for work or those looking for interactive chats.

Switching to a different platform isn’t the issue. It’s having people there to chat with. If you find the it a little creepy that you’re being followed by WhatsApp, then change. The two alternatives above are easy to find and even easier to use.