Alphonso, a startup that retails media-viewing data, provides a plugin that listens for audio signals in shows and movies. Approximately 250 mobile entertainments and social applications in the Google Play Store use it to produce targeted ads, according to News, a few of which include bland-sounding titles like “Pool 3D”, “Beer Pong: Trickshot”, “Real Bowling Strike 10 Pin”, and “Honey Quest”.
Even scarier, the software’s precise enough to detect audio when your phone’s in a pouch or bookbag. Alphonso’s CEO, Ashish Chordia, told News that it worked with movie studios to analyze movie-viewing habits and with Shazam to collect music-hearing data.
The organization insists that it doesn’t record human speech and that it reveals its software’s tracking capabilities in-app information and terms of service (ToS) agreements. It also says that users have to give permission before Alphonso’s service can gain access to their devices’ microphones and locations.
But a number of Alphonso-enabled purposes are geared toward children, according to the Times report, and many of their declarations aren’t fully transparent.
Alphonso’s plugin far from the first of its kind. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission targeted developers who’d applied Silverfish, an audio-recording service akin to Alphonso’s solution, in their applications.
With $70 billion of yearly digital marketing money at stake, it doesn’t seem likely that Alphonso, Silverfish, and other like co-operation will head the way of the dodo anytime soon. But here’s hoping that app developers are a little more inevitable in the future about which ad-tracking services they’re using.