Report: Some iOS games using microphone to track users’ TV habits

Games like Pool 3D, Beer Pong:Trickshot, and Real Bowling Strike:10 Pin found on the App Store could be tracking users’ TV viewing habits even when they’re not being played, The New York Times reports. The apps are all built using software from Alphonso, a start-up that specializes in collecting data on TV viewing for advertisers. Even when the apps aren’t in use, Alphonso’s software can potentially use a smartphone’s microphone to pick up on the TV shows and ads playing around the device, then use that information to target ads to the user, although the microphone is less likely to continue being used outside of the app on iOS devices due to Apple’s built-in limitations on background apps.
The Times claims, “More than 250 games that use Alphonso software are available in the Google Play store,” but is less certain about how many of the titles appear on the App Store. Alphonso claims its use of the devices is clearly stated in its privacy policy, but given how little users pay attention to those — and the fact that many of these games are geared toward children — it’s likely many users are being tracked without knowing it. Since users have to allow an app to use the microphone, it’s best to be wary of apps that ask for that permission when the game itself doesn’t appear to have any legitimate reason to use the microphone.


Dan Pye was a news editor at iLounge. He's been involved with technology his whole life, and started writing about it in 2009. He's written about everything from iPhone and iPad cases to Apple TV accessories.