I have lost count of how many times I’ve been asked, “Are my devices listening?”
I will tell you this: They are always listening for the wake word, and tech companies admit smart assistants mishear commands more often than any of us would like. Tap or click to stop your smart assistants from hearing what you say, accidental or not. By the way, Google users won’t have to use a wake word at all using the new “Quick Phrases” feature.
What about the apps on our phones or websites that we open on our computers and tablets? This answer depends on the permissions you have granted. Tap or click here for a quick and easy trick to see which apps have recently accessed your camera or microphone.
If you want to feel genuinely secure digital ears aren’t snooping, you need to dive into your settings.
1. Change your permissions
Before we dive into the steps, let’s be clear. Facebook says it doesn’t eavesdrop. In 2016, when rumors were swirling that Facebook hears your conversations, it said it uses the mic only when you permit it. Facebook said it doesn’t use what you say to serve you ads or content.
How to check Facebook’s mic permissions on iPhone:
- Open Settings, scroll down to your apps and select Facebook.
- You will see a list of permissions. Slide the toggle next to Microphone to the left to disable it.
Here’s how to check your mic settings on a Mac.
- Click the Apple menu, then System Preferences.
- Select Security & Privacy, then open the Privacy tab. Select Microphone.
All the apps that have access to your microphone will be listed here. Toggle the sliders of the apps that you want to revoke to the left to disable.
To check what Facebook has access to on Android:
- Tap Settings, then Apps & notifications.
- Scroll down to Facebook > Permissions. You’ll see a list of all the permissions requested by Facebook here.
Finally, check to see which apps or programs have access to your microphone on a PC running Windows 10:
- Click on the Start button > Settings > Privacy.
- In the left-hand menu under App permissions, click Microphone.
The first option, “Microphone access for this device,” is a system-wide setting. If you turn this off, no app can access your microphone. Scrolling down a bit, you will see a list of Microsoft Store apps that can use the microphone. Toggle the slider to turn permission on or off.
The next section displays desktop apps that have microphone permissions. Keep in mind, you most likely visit Facebook in your web browser. That means you need to consider whether to disable microphone access to your browser or at least require sites to ask permission every time.
Lockdown your computer: Windows and Mac security settings to check now
2. Get a microphone blocker
If you want to go a step further, you can totally block your microphone. Gadgets from companies like Mic-Lock trick your computer into thinking a microphone is plugged in. These affordable anti-spying devices don’t have listening capabilities and block any acoustics from being recorded.
Mic-Lock makes microphone blockers for USB and Lightning connections, and traditional 3.5mm jacks.
Note: If you buy the standard Mic-Lock and use a newer iPhone without a headphone jack, you’ll need to use one of these Lightning to 3.5 mm headphone jack converters.
3. Or DIY your own mic blocker
Want a cheap and easy method to block audio? Grab an inexpensive pair of headphones and cut the cord near the jack. Now, plug it into your computer or phone without worrying about live sound input.
If you don’t have any cheap headphones around, you can get a pair from Amazon for less than $10.
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Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters, and more, visit her website at Komando.com.