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Ultrasonic Hearing: A Sci-Fi Approach to Marketing

You probably idly think sometimes about the fact that your phone is tracking you. Websites use cookies to follow your activity and later affect the ads you see while browsing. Of course, the ethics of this data sharing made big news following Cambridge Analytica’s influence on Facebook. That breach had many people rethinking their social media use. But few of us feel we can abandon our smartphones, and now, there’s one more way they are listening to you.

What is Ultrasonic Hearing?

It’s called ultrasonic hearing. When your smartphone’s microphone is turned on, and the data sharing settings are enabled, high-frequency audio signals and voice recognition tools can pick up data from the sounds from places you pass by, videos you watch, and words you say. From this data, computers and artificial intelligence analyze your habits, such as what you’re doing and what you’re watching on TV or online.

The information is not a recording of your conversation on the couch. In fact, many of the sounds it records are inaudible to the human ear. When your phone connects and picks up on certain high-frequency noises from these devices as well as some lower-frequency noises, such as words spoken in conversation. The program filters out the low-frequencies and analyzes the high frequencies, turning the data over to companies who pay to advertise to you. In some cases, you’ll find this useful. One company used such data to send welcome messages to those attending a music festival, for example.  

Yes, it is Legal

Although this is not new technology, ultrasonic tracking is in the wild west territory of data sharing. Most laws prohibit voyeurism in the form of listening to or recording private conversations. However, because this technology does not explicitly record and monitor private conversations, there are no legal barriers to ultrasonic hearing.

What You Can Do

As a consumer, you might feel outraged. These apps aren’t informing consumers about this monitoring, and as TechCrunch pointed out, the FCC hasn’t taken kindly on that type of behavior in the past.

To opt out, you need to review all the apps that asked permission to use the microphone. Unfortunately, that’s a lot! You might feel challenged trying to uninstall all those apps, but you can also try deactivating the mic in some of them.

As a business owner, you might wonder how you can sign up to use this data. After all, ultrasonic hearing is a useful way to reach your target audience, giving you a specific channel based on someone’s TV shows or activities. It’s up to you whether you feel the ethics of this type of advertising will suit your business.  

Have you heard of a marketing tool that you’d like to know more about? Contact us with your questions.