First-Of-Its-Kind University Study Proves Without A Doubt That Your Phone Is Spying On You

Authored by Matt Agorist via,

For years, conspiracy theories about smart phones listening to users without their permission to show them advertisements have abounded.

While some researchers have shown this could happen, a first of its kind study just found something far more insidious. Academics at Northeastern University have just proven that your phone is recording your screen - as in taking video - and uploading it to third parties.

For the last year, Elleen Pan, Jingjing Ren, Martina Lindorfer, Christo Wilson, and David Choffnes ran an experiment involving more than 17,000 of the most popular Android apps using ten different phones. Their findings were alarming, to say the least.

As Gizmodo points out, during the study, the researchers started to see that screenshots and video recordings of what people were doing in apps were being sent to third-party domains. For example, when one of the phones used an app from GoPuff, a delivery start-up for people who have sudden cravings for junk food, the interaction with the app was recorded and sent to a domain affiliated with Appsee, a mobile analytics company. The video included a screen where you could enter personal information - in this case, their zip code.

GoPuff did not disclose in its terms of use that its app was recording users screens and uploading this data to a third party. What’s more, when they were contacted by the researchers GoPuff merely added a disclosure to their policy acknowledging that “ApSee” might receive users PII.

The fact that these apps can record your screen without you knowing and use this data is chilling. It illustrates how easy it would be for a malicious actor to be able to look at your private messages, personal information, passwords, photos, and videos. None of this is stopped by your phone’s security either as it is a function built into the apps and you don’t have an option to disallow it.

According to Gizmodo, the researchers will be presenting their work at the Privacy Enhancing Technology Symposium Conference in Barcelona next month. (While in Spain, they might want to check out the country’s most popular soccer app, which has given itself permission to access users’ smartphone mics to listen for illegal broadcasts of games in bars.)

As for the theory that your phone is listening through your mic, the researchers could not debunk it. Due to the nature of the study — using automated programs to interact with apps — the spying apps may have not been triggered the same way they would if a human was using them.

Although they didn’t find evidence your phone was listening to you, this does not mean it doesn’t still happen.

“We didn’t see any evidence that people’s conversations are being recorded secretly,” said David Choffnes, one of the authors of the paper. “What people don’t seem to understand is that there’s a lot of other tracking in daily life that doesn’t involve your phone’s camera or microphone that give a third party just as comprehensive a view of you.”

The authors of the study, titled Panoptispy: Characterizing Audio and Video Exfiltration from Android Applications, concluded:

Our study reveals several alarming privacy risks in the Android app ecosystem, including apps that over-provision their media permissions and apps that share image and video data with other parties in unexpected ways, without user knowledge or consent. We also identify a previously unreported privacy risk that arises from third party libraries that record and upload screenshots and videos of the screen without informing the user. This can occur without needing any permissions from the user.

In the age of technology, privacy and security are the only things that separate us from a total surveillance grid. Unfortunately, as this study illustrates, we have very little of both.


NidStyles Ambrose Bierce Fri, 07/06/2018 - 22:33 Permalink

I have a running conversation with the cops and agents listening. I don’t give a shit. I think this shit is hilarious. 


They hate this bullshit as well. What else are you going to do when you know all this crap is going on and you know how all of it works in depth? They won’t even let me touch a computer anymore lmao!


Was offered a job in IT and turned it down, because I know exactly what they would have me doing. Making it so no one could get onto the Internet untraceablely.

In reply to by Ambrose Bierce

wildbad Richard Chesler Sat, 07/07/2018 - 07:22 Permalink

while their study did not conclude that your phone listens to does.

all the time


the experiment to prove this is easy.

sit with someone you know with both or your phones in sleep mode.  have a planned conversation about a specific topic about which you have never discoursed eg: "enema bags".  mention that item in a few different contexts..ask wher you can buy one, how do you use one, are they fun..whatever.

check the ads you are offered in the following days.

In reply to by Richard Chesler

lincolnsteffens directaction Sat, 07/07/2018 - 09:45 Permalink

Don't use smart ( spy ) phones. Somehow the world got along for billions of years without them. I have a track phone that can be turned off and the battery removed too. I only have it on and with me when I need to make a call or receive one.

People are convinced they have to have one of these and they have become addicted to using them. I see zombies walking around with their phones in their hands and looking at their screens. If they are not looking at their screens they have this microwave device glued to their ears and yakking while they barely are aware of where they are going. 

I got rid of the TV spy device. I use a land line at home and at my business. I'm keeping my eye out for a cream puff 1970- 2006 car so I can't be hacked and searched for except with inescapable spy cameras.

Every time you buy or use anything involved with spy equipment you are giving your consent to give up your privacy.

Cash is also good. Every time you use a credit or debit card you are giving the Federal Reserve and the Gov. evidence that you are giving them permission to track what you buy, where you are buying it and you don't need their paper bills anymore.

We are the cause of the loss of our own freedoms because it is too inconvenient to keep it. 

In reply to by directaction

el buitre lincolnsteffens Sat, 07/07/2018 - 10:44 Permalink

I am on your wavelength, Lincoln.  I am off grid so my fridge can't spy on me and I have a 2001 car with an expertly rebuilt motor.  I ran separate conduit when I built my cottage and have ethernet outlets in all the rooms.  But I did buy an iPhone 4S recently on eBay to replace my dead iPod 5 Gen.  It was really cheap and with sufficient memory for my music library - an offer I couldn't refuse.  I do have to text occasionally.  I had a Blackberry Bold for this purpose which I picked up for $8.50 which has a removable battery,  but I found the OS difficult.  I also have a Cornet RF meter.  I live in the boonies with the nearest house at least a half mile a way, so the only mw I get is from a tower in clear view about a mile and a half away.  Anyway, I put the iPhone in airplane mode and sat the Cornet next to it for several hours.  The iPhone did not emit a whisper of a mw pulse during this test.  I do carry it with me but always in airplane mode.  I assume our thuggish friends in the NSA can bypass this somehow, but I don't see how they can without leaving a mw pulse trail.  Our real danger, both to our health and privacy, is the 5G roll out.  It uses the same frequency that DARPA has weaponized for crowd control.  It would be a shame if the population carried a hammer in their backpacks with a wooden or insulated handle to deal with the 5G transceivers.  That would be terrible.

In reply to by lincolnsteffens

abgary1 directaction Sat, 07/07/2018 - 15:02 Permalink

We have choices people.

Leave our mobile devises at home, disable the location feature, limit our net time, stay off of social media, use search engines that do not track our queries, encrypt our communications and use cash.

Anything that leaves a digital footprint can and is being tracked.

Please watch Citizen Four, the Ed Snowden documentary, to learn how the security agencies worldwide access data from the tech. cos, telcoms and banks to track innocent people.

Do not give up our privacy and thus ou8r freedom for convenience sake.

In reply to by directaction

are we there yet Kefeer Sat, 07/07/2018 - 03:38 Permalink

Auto flush bathroom sensors do not collect a national database of peoples butts. Your butt is not that important. Not even Maxine Waters enormous and ugly behind is stored anywhere. If it is, my retinas do not want to see it.

In reply to by Kefeer

Endgame Napoleon kellys_eye Sat, 07/07/2018 - 17:06 Permalink

I don’t think people really understood that their phones could hear them, much less see them. Ugh.

Regardless of whether or not it is for advertising purposes, I want a secure smartphone. I understand that they have to make a living, though. There is a conundrum in that; computer programming involves a lot of hard work. 

The products are good, but so was privacy. Thing is, even if we go without the bountiful good things about mobile devices, they are tracking everyone anyway, not just government, either———-bigly corporations that are trying to make sure that they never take a risk.

Even if you are one of the growing number of US citizens, getting very, very, very little out of all of this, you cannot really opt out unless you never need to rent an apartment or buy the tiniest thing on credit, including a $500 smartphone.

So that dual-high-earner parents—with their two six-figure jobs or one six-figure corporate job and one safe government job per household—can borrow multi six figures for their dream house, you, little individual who borrows so much less that it is just laughable, must have every little nothing transaction you ever make tracked.

If you think they don’t, work in credit processing, a job that pays $10 per hour, where absentee crony-mom gangs, with their Halloween dress-up days and their momma drama, have even more access to every last bit of information about anyone and everyone than insurance and other financial services industries.  

In reply to by kellys_eye

any_mouse Nuclear Winter Sat, 07/07/2018 - 07:03 Permalink

Appsee's Team.

Take a guess who.

PS the diversity crowd ought to get after appsee. But these guys have special protection.

All guys, first names. Zahi, Yoni, Yanay, Roi, Maoz, Zvi, Sergey, and Moshe.

The business address is a shared workspace near the NYC Library. With the servers in the cloud, along with the data, there could be the same raw data feed to the Usual Suspects. The ones who get the NSA raw feed.

In reply to by Nuclear Winter

ft65 Nuclear Winter Sat, 07/07/2018 - 10:59 Permalink

>> No shit, Sherlock. It's just who's on the backend collecting the data?

>>   CIA and NSA?

>>   MI5 and the Queen?

>> China and the Communists?

Mainly Facebook , Google and the like, the information then sold onto any interested parties or anyone clever enough to scrape the data using craftily coded applications. Mainly to sell click-through adverts. Alphabet security agencies and governments for census information, or to link criminal / subversive / terror networks. They also use ISP / Network providers and every other application service provider. Government really are not bothered about most peoples' purchase and dirty little habits and sordid private lives, unless dubious substances / dodgy merchandise is being procured. Government / Security services do like to track criminal gangs and their network of friends. 


These software / network companies are looking to harvest third party marketing budgets. That is why Google and Facebook are worth so much. Sell, sell, SELL adverts and click-throughs.

In reply to by Nuclear Winter