Nearly half of Indian smartphone users have seen ads on websites or social media platforms that were based on phone conversations they had. This further reiterates what privacy advocates have been saying for a long time – your phone and the apps on it are listening in to everything you do.

Half of Indian smartphone users are seeing ads based on their personal phone conversations

Imagine this – you’re speaking to your friend and planning a trip to Goa, or are thinking of buying that latest sneaker over a call and suddenly you are inundated with advertisements about holiday packages in Goa, or the different discounts that different shopping platforms offer on those exact sneakers. Sounds familiar? Well, you aren’t the only one.

If you have seen an ad in your email box or via SMS based on your smartphone conversation with your wife or a colleague, don’t get shocked as a survey revealed on Wednesday that nearly half of all Indian smartphone users have confirmed seeing ads based on their private voice conversations.

About 53 per cent of citizens said they have had one or more instances in the last 12 months where they saw advertisements on the web or some social media app based on their phone conversations, according to a survey by community social media platform LocalCircles.

The results also indicated that a majority of Indian smartphone users have given microphone access to their handsets for audio/video calls to various social media apps and audio recording third-party apps.  

“A large number of people have been raising the issue of seeing contextual advertisements post their private phone conversations and this is very concerning,” said Sachin Taparia, Founder of LocalCircles.

“Such practices must be investigated and any apps requiring microphone access must be required to give clear declarations of where a user’s information will be used and seek explicit consent,” he added.

The Indian government is yet to approve the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, aimed to provide legislative and statutory protection to users’ or citizens’ personal information and recognise protecting the data of individuals as their right.

LocalCircles said it will share the survey findings with the IT Ministry, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) and the RBI for necessary action.

“If this is not done at the earliest, such access could easily lead to financial frauds and people’s personal information getting compromised with no accountability of how it happened,” Taparia said.

Among those who had such an experience, 28 per cent said it happens all the time, 19 per cent said it has happened several times, and 6 per cent said it has happened a few times.

Only 24 per cent of citizens said that it has never happened while 23 per cent did not have an opinion.

About 84 per cent of smartphone users admitted to having given their contact list access to WhatsApp, 51 per cent had given access to Facebook Messenger, Instagram or both, and 41 per cent had given access to caller information apps like Truecaller.

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