INDIANAPOLIS – A new survey shows that four in five Americans worry that companies are following their internet activity by using ad tracking, while three in four Americans believe smart home devices are constantly listening to them.

The survey of 800 people by Digital Third Coast gives insight into how American consumers feel about their privacy in 2023:

  • 80% are concerned that companies can follow their internet activity via ad tracking
  • 74% believe smart home devices are always listening
  • 60% believe their phone is listening to them
  • 60% believe the government is tracking their phone data

The survey also breaks down responses based on respondents’ age.  For example, 75% of younger respondents (Gen Z) believe the government is tracking phone data.  Millennials (65%) and Gen X (54%) also outnumbered Baby Boomers (40%) in this category.

Of course, some of this “listening” has to happen for our phones and home devices to respond to voice commands properly.  How else would an iPhone know to respond when the owner says “Hey Siri?”  Alexa and other devices are designed to respond to “wake words” to activate their voice interaction.  The only way for them to “hear” the wake word is to be “listening” to their surroundings at all times.

Have you ever had a conversation about a specific product only to see an ad for it show up in your social media or internet browser a short time later?

If we are going to accept a certain level of “listening” by our technology, there are still ways to limit how much apps and devices have access to.

The first step is to review the privacy and permission settings in each of your devices’ apps.  Which apps on your phone really need access to your microphone or location?  Those can be changed in each app’s settings.

It’s also a good idea to stick to apps sold in your device’s official app store, rather than downloading apps and software from third-party websites.

Keeping your system software updated is also recommended so that your most current security settings are in place.

You can also tweak your location tracking and targeted advertising settings on Apple and Android Devices.  Technology guru Kim Komando recently posted eight ways you can stop your phone from tracking you.  You can read more about those hints here.