Media Release

1 in 5 Aussies convinced their smartphone is spying on them

  • 33% of Gen Y suspicious about smartphone surveillance
  • 2.1 million Australians totally freaked out by targeted ads
  • Coincidence or cyberstalking? How to protect your privacy

17 July 2018, Sydney, Australia – Nearly one in five Australians think their smartphone is eavesdropping on them, according to finder.com.au, the site that compares virtually everything.

The new survey showed 18% of Aussies adults — equivalent to 3.2 million people— say they’ve had a conversation about a product or service, only to see an advertisement pop up about it on their social media feeds soon after.

This is made up of one in eight (12%)—or 2.1 million Australians—who are ‘totally freaked out’ by the fact that their devices appear to hear what they say; and 6% who believe it’s the trade-off for getting a free service like Facebook or YouTube.

Of the 2,085 respondents surveyed, Australians aged 18 to 23 (Generation Z) were the most paranoid, with 37% convinced their smartphones are listening in on their conversations and exploiting that knowledge.

The research found 33% of Generation Y suspect their devices are listening to them, compared to 12% of Generation X and 4% of Baby Boomers.

Angus Kidman, Tech Expert at finder.com.au, says there’s no need to get the tinfoil hat out just yet.

“There’s no evidence that smartphones themselves are ‘listening in’,” he said.

“If you’ve been chatting to your friend about a product and it suddenly pops up in an advertisement in your social media feed — the most logical explanation is you’re noticing it more.”

“It’s human nature to look for links and patterns, when in actuality most of the time it’s just a coincidence. We often remember an ad when it seems topical, but forget all the times that we’ve scrolled past other ads and never even noticed it.”

But before you totally write this phenomenon off without apparent cause, consider your online history.

“It’s no coincidence that consumers are targeted by certain products in their Facebook and Instagram feeds — it’s insights gleaned from websites you visit and online retailers you shop with,” he said.

“There are plenty of apps monitoring and recording your every move, we just can’t blame the smartphone itself,” said Mr Kidman.

The research showed women (20%) are more wary than men (15%) when it comes to their smartphone spying on them.

“Even if you have nothing to hide, apps and websites like Facebook are tracking our activity closely online, and we need to bear in mind that we share a lot of information and data.”

According to the survey, 19% of Australians aren’t on social media.

“Social media is becoming more prevalent amongst all generations in Australia and it’s important to stay wary, now more than ever, when sharing information online.”

How to protect your privacy

  1. Adjust your settings and disable access to your microphone in your apps. You might need to toggle it on and off for when you do need to record sound for your Instagram story or Skype a relative, but at least when it’s not needed, you know it’s off.
  2. Disable location services so apps can’t access your GPS location. Turn it back on when you’re using Google Maps or need to jump into an Uber.
  3. You might still use Siri for a giggle, but if you genuinely don’t use your voice assistant, go into the setting and disable the voice detection

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For further information

Disclaimer

The information in this release is accurate as of the date published, but rates, fees and other product features may have changed. Please see updated product information on finder.com.au's review pages for the current correct values.

About us

More than 3 million Australians turn to finder.com.au every month to save money, time and make important life choices. We compare virtually everything from credit cards, phone plans, health insurance, travel deals and much more.

Our free service is 100% independently-owned by two Australians: Fred Schebesta and Frank Restuccia. Since launching in 2006, we’ve helped our users make more than 17 million decisions.

We continue to expand and launch around the globe, and now operate in the United States and United Kingdom. For further information visit www.finder.com.au.

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