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Android games found tracking users' TV viewing habits

Honey Quest uses technology to target ads based on the user's viewing habits. (Source: NY Times)
Honey Quest uses technology to target ads based on the user's viewing habits. (Source: NY Times)
Many Android games have been found to track the user's TV viewing habits for displaying ads. The games use software from Alphonso that collects data from the phone's microphone, identifies the audio stream, and displays targeted advertising.
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In what would likely set off alarm bells ringing for the privacy conscious, it has been found that seemingly harmless games such as Pool 3D, Beer Pong: Trickshot, Honey Quest, and close to about 250 apps in the Google Play Store track the user's TV viewing habits for targeted advertising. The apps employ a software from Alphonso, a startup company that collects TV-viewing data for advertisers.

When users give these apps permission to access the microphone, Alphonso kicks in and starts identifying audio signals from TV content and uses this information to build a profile of the user's viewing habits, deliver targeted ads, and analyze data for advertisers. A major chunk of Alphonso-enabled apps are in the Google Play Store with a few of them also available in Apple's App Store. Alphonso can also collect data in the background as long as the app is not completely quit.

While this may seem to be a blatant violation of privacy, Alphonso CEO, Ashish Chordia, thinks otherwise. He says that the data collection is happening only after the user's explicit consent and that it can be opted out anytime. He said that the app does not record human speech and all this is explained in the corresponding app description and privacy policies. Chordia says that the practices comply with the Federal Trade Commission guidelines and privacy conscious users can opt out of the data collection process by following these instructions.

Alphonso and similar companies might have their legalities in place but they exploit users' negligence of not reading through app permissions and privacy policies before installation. Most users simply grant permissions out of habit and their personal information soon becomes fodder for advertisers. Targeted ads are not entirely bad and can prove to be very useful sometimes but it will surely be appreciated if users are alerted in ways that are more conspicuous. On the other hand, with the increasing proliferation of technology into our living rooms and personal spaces, users would do themselves a service by taking a few minutes to read through the app permissions and privacy policies before hitting the install button.

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Vaidyanathan Subramaniam
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam - Managing Editor - 1395 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2012
Though a cell and molecular biologist by training, I have been drawn towards computers from a very young age ever since I got my first PC in 1998. My passion for technology grew quite exponentially with the times, and it has been an incredible experience from being a much solicited source for tech advice and troubleshooting among family and friends to joining Notebookcheck in 2017 as a professional tech journalist. Now, I am a Lead Editor at Notebookcheck covering news and reviews encompassing a wide gamut of the technology landscape for Indian and global audiences. When I am not hunting for the next big story or taking complex measurements for reviews, you can find me unwinding to a nice read, listening to some soulful music, or trying out a new game.
contact me via: @Geeky_Vaidy
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 01 > Android games found tracking users' TV viewing habits
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 2018-01- 1 (Update: 2018-01- 1)