Games Track Habits

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The New York Times has reported that the California-based Alphonso has developed tracking software to obtain information on what is being watched on television and keep track of users’ viewing habits. Approximately 1,000 games and apps have hidden monitoring capabilities including Google Play that has more than 250 games using this software.

Alphonso utilizes the devices’ built-in microphone to track what is being watched on television shows and its many ads and sometimes also matches the information with the movies being watched and the places being visited.

The software does not record human speech but catches sound signals, even if the phone is in a pocket, if the games are running in the background. Alphonso did not disclose the particular games that are using its software and gives an argument that it does disclose the monitoring. However, it is often found that the disclosure is not readily visible. The games using the software do not actually define the monitoring process but do ask for the location and for microphone access on devices using Android 6.0 Marshmallow and those above.

Shazam, a music-identifying app, is reported to be in partnership with Alphonso to aid the company in understanding user behavior. The app uses Shazam content-recognition technology to identify users and provide the tracking information to Alphonso. Shazam, able to be different from other apps, has access to the microphone on a large amount of mobile devices so that the sound signals can be captured and then given to Alphonso.

In the defense of the tracking software, it is reported that it is aimed at helping advertisers to analyze the behavior of end users using the various facts in the derived information. Then the advertisers have the capability to be able to develop more appropriate and personalized ads to attract prospective customers.

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