Are our devices always listening?

We are all familiar with sponsored posts that appear online. We understand that when we search or click on certain links Google takes a record of this. In the future the adverts that you see on your smartphone or other devices will be relating to that content you were viewing. That's okay, we've all made peace with that (as annoying and clever as it may be) and it makes sense. However, and this is a big however, what if your devices were able to pick up on topics of interest without you searching anything at all?

The Theory

There is a theory at the moment, and we say 'theory' purely because there is no factual proof or evidence that there is truth to this, that search and social media sites are actually always alert and listening to you and your surroundings. Confused? An example of this would be a story we heard. A said individual was watching a movie based on running. It focused on professional athletes and the journey that they go on through, the years of training and sacrifice etc. etc. This individual was watching the movie on his TV, not a smart TV or iPad - your normal run of the mill TV, and the next day when he was scrolling through his Facebook newsfeed he saw a whole bunch of sponsored posts relating to running shoes, training gear and gym memberships.

This was a topic he had never searched online, he had never shopped online for these type of products, and had never even watched similar sorts of content on YouTube. The movie was a once off topic of interest and the adverts were completely out of the blue. The posts also showed up exactly the next day after he had been watching that movie. This incident is not isolated either, this is one of hundreds of similar scenarios we personally have heard of and experienced ourselves. Could this all just be a coincidence or is there some truth to the idea that we're being spied on?

Online Safety

At this point you might be thinking to yourself, "I really don't care if Google is showing me sponsored ads based on information it's hearing", but what if it didn't stop there? What if our software could take private information, phone calls, personal face-to-face conversations or emails and use that information for anything and everything? There has already been a disruption with Facebook and the privacy of its users, which we were all blissfully unaware of. What if this is another situation exactly like that? How long before we start to ask questions about the products and platforms that we spend so much of our lives involved with?

Software developers have never confirmed anything of this nature and we're not really sure how it would even be possible. What we do know is that this type of thing seems to be happening more frequently to more people and quite frankly, it's kind of creepy. So what are your thoughts? Real-life or imaginary? Conspiracy theory or fact? All we can say is... Be careful what you say and do around your smartphone and other devices in the year 2018. You never know who or what might just be listening 👀