how to stop your phone from listening to you for ads 1

As technology advances, advertisers have developed more sophisticated techniques to deliver personalized ads based on user habits and preferences. While this can potentially lead to a more streamlined browsing experience, the concern over privacy invasion is undeniably valid. To address these concerns and ensure one’s privacy, it’s crucial to understand the various privacy settings on your phone and learn how to optimize them. 

Key Takeaways

  • Recognize the importance of maintaining digital privacy in a world filled with targeted ads
  • Learn about and adjust settings on your phone to minimize eavesdropping and improve privacy
  • Ensure online safety by managing app permissions, dealing with potential threats, and embracing best practices for online privacy

Understanding the Threat

Privacy Concerns

As technology progresses, many individuals have become concerned about the level of privacy they retain when using their smart devices. Tech companies have access to massive amounts of user data, which enables them to deliver personalized advertisements based on users’ preferences and online activities. One major concern is the possibility of your phone listening to you without your explicit consent, potentially violating your privacy.

Spyware and Malware

Spyware and malware are two forms of malicious software that can compromise the security of your smartphone. Spyware is able to monitor and collect data on user activities, while malware can cause serious harm to your device, often in the form of data theft or damage.

General Privacy Settings

In this section, we will discuss how to adjust the privacy settings on Android phones and iPhones to prevent your device from inadvertently listening to you for targeted ads.

Android Phones

To enhance your privacy on an Android phone, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app on your device and navigate to the Privacy section.
  2. In the Privacy settings, tap on Permission Manager to view and manage app permissions.
  3. Go to the Microphone permissions section and review the list of apps that have access to your device’s microphone.
  4. Restrict or revoke the microphone permissions for any app that you feel shouldn’t have access to this sensitive information.

By managing your app permissions, especially the microphone permissions, you gain more control over which applications can potentially listen to your conversations.


To manage privacy settings on an iPhone, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app on your device and navigate to the Privacy section.
  2. In the Privacy settings, tap on Microphone to view and manage app permissions.
  3. The list of apps with access to your device’s microphone will be displayed. Toggle off the access for any app that you feel shouldn’t have use of the microphone.

By adjusting these microphone permissions on your iPhone, you can effectively minimize the chances of your device listening and collecting data for targeted advertisements.

Adjusting Virtual Assistant Settings

In order to stop your phone from listening to you for ads, you can adjust the settings of your virtual assistants. This section will cover the steps to modify the settings for Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa, and Cortana.

Google Assistant

To disable Google Assistant’s voice listening for ads, follow these steps:

browsing advertisements using a mobile phone
  1. Open the Google Home app on your device.
  2. Tap on your profile icon in the top right corner.
  3. Select “Assistant Settings” and then “Voice Match.”
  4. Under “Voice Match,” find the option to disable it. This will prevent Google Assistant from recognizing your voice commands for ads and tracking.
  5. To delete your existing voice recordings, go back to “Assistant Settings” and choose “Your data in the Assistant.” From there, you can manage and delete your voice recordings.


For Siri, follow these steps to disable the voice recognition and tracking for ads:

  1. Open the “Settings” app on your iOS device.
  2. Scroll down and tap on “Siri & Search.”
  3. Toggle off “Listen for ‘Hey Siri'” to prevent Siri from listening for voice commands.
  4. If you wish to delete your Siri voice recordings, go to “Settings” > “Privacy” > “Analytics & Improvement.” Here, you can disable “Improve Siri & Dictation” to stop sharing voice recordings with Apple.


For the Amazon Echo devices and Alexa, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Alexa app on your smartphone.
  2. Tap on the menu icon and select “Settings.”
  3. Choose “Device Settings” and select your Echo device.
  4. Under “Wake Word,” you can change the wake word to a less common word to reduce accidental triggering.
  5. If you want to delete your voice recordings, visit the Amazon Privacy page and manage your voice recordings, allowing you to delete them if necessary.


Here’s how to disable voice tracking for ads in Microsoft’s Cortana:

  1. Open the “Settings” app in Windows 10.
  2. Click on “Privacy” and then “Speech” from the menu on the left.
  3. Turn off the “Online speech recognition” toggle to prevent Cortana from listening for voice commands.
  4. To delete your voice data, go to the Microsoft Privacy dashboard and navigate to “Voice” to manage your voice data.

Managing App Activity and Permissions

Managing your app activity and permissions is essential to prevent your phone from listening to you for targeted ads. By adjusting these settings, you can better control which apps have access to your microphone and other sensitive data.

Facebook and Instagram

To ensure your privacy on Facebook and Instagram, take the following steps:

  1. Review app permissions: Go to your phone’s settings and find the list of installed apps. Check the permissions granted to Facebook and Instagram, specifically the microphone and location access. Disable any unnecessary permissions.
  2. Mute in-app microphone: Both Facebook and Instagram have options to mute the in-app microphone. This will prevent them from listening to your conversations to serve targeted ads. On Facebook, go to Settings > App Settings > Microphone, and toggle off the option. For Instagram, go to your profile settings, scroll down to the Voice options, and mute the microphone.
  3. Limit ad tracking: Facebook and Instagram have settings to limit ad tracking. Visit the Ad Preferences section under Settings & Privacy in both apps, and make sure the relevant options are enabled.

Third-Party Apps

Many third-party apps might access your microphone without your explicit permission and use it for targeted advertising. Here are some ways to protect your privacy:

handling a mobile phone that shows colorful ads
  1. Audit permissions: Regularly review the permissions assigned to all installed apps. Watch for any apps that request microphone access without a necessary reason. Remove or restrict these permissions as needed.
  2. Install trustworthy apps: Only download apps from reliable sources, such as the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Ensure that the app developers have a good reputation and have clearly stated their privacy policies. You can also check reviews and user feedback for additional information.
  3. Use privacy-focused tools: Some privacy-focused tools (eg. EFF’s App Privacy Database) help you understand the privacy practices and data usage of popular apps. Utilize these tools to make informed decisions about the apps you install.

Increasing Online Privacy

One way to enhance your privacy is to prevent your phone from listening to you for ads. This section will focus on two effective methods: using a VPN and deleting voice data.

Using a VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an excellent tool for maintaining online privacy. It encrypts your internet connection, ensuring that your data remains secure and private from potential eavesdroppers. By concealing your IP address and routing your traffic through servers in different locations, a VPN can help minimize the chances of targeted advertising based on your browsing habits and location.

To increase your online privacy:

  1. Choose a reputable VPN provider.
  2. Install the VPN app on your phone.
  3. Connect to a server in your desired location.
  4. Enjoy a more private and secure browsing experience.

Deleting Voice Data

Many devices, such as smartphones and smart speakers, store voice and audio data from user interactions. To further enhance your online privacy, it’s essential to periodically delete this data. Here’s a step-by-step guide to deleting voice request history:

  1. Open the settings menu in your device or on the platform that stores your voice data.
  2. Navigate to the voice & audio section.
  3. Filter your data by date & product to customize the information you wish to delete.
  4. Select the voice request history you wish to remove and choose the Delete option.

For increased privacy, consider enabling the auto-delete feature if it’s available on your device or platform. This option automatically deletes voice data after a specified period.

Dealing with Malicious Software

Identifying Scams and Malware

To identify potential scams and malware, be cautious of clicking on unknown links or downloading suspicious apps. Since malicious software often masquerades as legitimate programs, research each application thoroughly before installing it on your device.

Some red flags that indicate potential scams and malware are:

  • Unsolicited emails or messages with links or attachments
  • Requests for your personal or financial information
  • Too-good-to-be-true offers or deals

Protecting Sensitive Information

reading articles using a mobile phone

Protecting your sensitive information, particularly passwords, is essential to prevent malicious software from gaining access to your phone and listening to you for targeted ads. Here are some steps to ensure the safety of your personal data:

  1. Use strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts, including email, social media, and online banking. Consider using a password manager to help you create and store complex passwords.
  2. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible to add an extra layer of security.
  3. Keep your device’s software and applications up-to-date, as updates often fix existing security vulnerabilities.
  4. Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi networks, as they may expose your sensitive information to hackers. Use a virtual private network (VPN) when accessing public networks.
  5. Regularly scan your device for malware using reputable security software, and promptly remove any detected threats.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I disable the listening feature on my Android device?

To disable the listening feature on your Android device, go to your settings and navigate to the “Google” section. From there, select “Account services,” then “Search, Assistant & Voice.” Tap on “Voice,” and under the “Voice Match” or “Hey Google” section, you can disable the listening feature by toggling off the switch.

What steps can I take to ensure my iPhone is not listening to me?

To ensure your iPhone is not listening to you, go to “Settings,” then select “Siri & Search.” Turn off “Listen for Hey Siri” and “Press Side Button for Siri” options, and disable Siri Suggestions for individual apps by toggling off the switches.

Are there methods to test if my phone is listening for ad purposes?

While it’s challenging to prove definitively whether your phone is listening for ad purposes, you can monitor the permissions your apps have for accessing your microphone. Regularly review the app permissions in your phone’s settings, and disable access for apps that do not require microphone usage.

Is there a way to prevent ads from accessing my phone conversations?

To prevent ads from accessing your phone conversations, regularly review and manage your app permissions. Disable microphone access for unnecessary apps, and consider using privacy-focused tools such as ad blockers or virtual private networks (VPNs) to limit tracking and data collection.

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