Study finds Big Tech apps continue “listening” and gathering data even when mic is set to “mute”
04/25/2022 // JD Heyes // Views

If you've noticed in the past that you are being shown ads based on something you may have mentioned to a friend or spouse and thought that it was just a coincidence, you're mistaken, according to a new, but as yet unpublished, study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

According to a press release from the institution, researchers claim that they investigated "many popular apps" in order to determine what data they are capable of capturing even when a user has a muted microphone on his or her device. The press release did not mention which apps were studied, but what the researchers found is damning enough that their study has been accepted by the 2022 Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium, according to Reclaim The Net.

"They used runtime binary analysis tools to trace raw audio in popular video conferencing applications as the audio traveled from the app to the computer audio driver and then to the network while the app was muted," the press release stated.

"They found that all of the apps they tested occasionally gather raw audio data while mute is activated, with one popular app gathering information and delivering data to its server at the same rate regardless of whether the microphone is muted or not."

With the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI), as well as machine learning, Big Tech companies are able to use raw audio data in order to make accurate inferences about users. Researchers for the study used the technologies to see what kind of inferences Big Tech could make and they found them to be fairly spot-on.


According to an abstract of the study obtained by the Next Web: "Using network traffic that we intercept en route to the telemetry server, we implement a proof-of-concept background activity classifier and demonstrate the feasibility of inferring the ongoing background activity during a meeting — cooking, cleaning, typing, etc. We achieved 81.9 percent macro accuracy on identifying six common background activities using intercepted outgoing telemetry packets when a user is muted."

In other words, the grad students at the university were able to discover what a user of a video conferencing app was doing in the background while the mic to their device was muted and were accurate more than 80 percent of the time.

"With a camera, you can turn it off or even put your hand over it, and no matter what you do, no one can see you. I don't think that exists for microphones," said the lead author of the study, Kassem Fawaz.

In short, the Big Tech companies have decided that no matter what, they don't have to adhere to the alleged privacy guarantees contained in the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution so they can continually market goods and services to you, as well as obtain deeply private information that can later be used to blackmail you with – and they are doing it with the knowledge and at the behest of the federal government.

Now you know why Congress refuses to take on Big Tech: It's likely Big Tech companies have all the goods on each and every member and is threatening to expose anyone who opposes their power grabs.

One lawmaker, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, has recently spoken out about this, noting that his colleagues won't rein in Big Tech because they are "owned" by Big Tech.

"Congress is not going to rein in Big Tech, because Congress is bought by Big Tech," Gaetz said back in September 2020, when the platforms were censoring damning information on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

"There are just simply too many members of the House and Senate who are beholden to Big Tech either because of political donations or because their family members are getting employed by Big Tech," he added.

And, we know now, because Big Tech is spying on them.

Sources include:

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