Smartphone video games monitor you while you watch TV

The New York Times found that nearly a thousand apps on online stores collect data on what users watch on TV

The app you usually play could be spying on you while you watch TV. It's not a Black Mirror scenario, but it's reality. This is what emerges from a research carried out by the New York Times where it was discovered that in more than 1000 applications there is the software Alphonso.

It is a program that collects data from users about their TV habits and sells them to advertisers to personalize the ads shown on smartphones and computers. Alphonso uses users' microphones to recognize which TV program they are watching and also collects information about where and when they watch it. All this data becomes gold in the hands of analysts, who are able to create advertisements designed specifically for the individual user. The program does not perform an illegal action and also asks the user for permission to use the microphone.

In which applications is Alphonso present

According to the research carried out by the New York Times, Alphonso is present in around 1,000 applications, including at least 250 video games and some apps for children. Most of the apps are on the Google Play Store, but you can also find some on the App Store. The functioning of Alphonso is very similar to that of Shazam, an application used by users to discover the name of a song they are listening to on TV or the radio. It takes Alphonso just a few seconds to recognize which program is being broadcast on TV and collect data about the users' habits in its database. What's more, the software doesn't record the users' voice, only that of the TV programs. As said, Alphonso doesn't commit any illegal activity, although the New York Times wanted to point out that the program is also present in applications for children.

How to defend yourself against Alphonso

The software houses that use the Alphonso program specify it in the characteristics of their applications. So, it only takes a little bit of attention to understand what you are installing. Also, when installing an application you should always pay attention to the permissions requested: if a videogame wants to use our microphone, we should start asking ourselves why it is doing so, especially if it is not fundamental to the gameplay. In case we notice something strange it is always possible to delete the permissions granted through the device settings, or in extreme cases delete the application.