There could be more risk for app users’ privacy as a monitoring software continues to get better at scrutinizing information. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued warning letter to app developers who allegedly installed a piece of software that could compromise people’s privacy.
The software developed and known as SilverPush can monitor a device’s microphone in order to listen for specific audio signals embedded in the advertisement on television. According to the FTC’s press released on March 17, the SilverPush software was designed to monitor the amount of time spent by consumers watching television through the use of the so-called audio beacons during TV advertisements.
These audio beacons emitted by the TV goes without consumers’ notice, as people can’t hear it, yet it can be detected by the SilverPush monitoring-software. The warning letters were sent to a total of 12 Android developers, who are supposedly using the controversial software in their apps.
Although the FTC didn’t mention any of the 12 Android developers’ name in the press released published on its website, there’s a good chance it will if any of the developers fail to comply with the warnings. It appears as a new age of surveillance through technology is upon the United States, as the letters note that the SilverPush software could be obtaining a detailed log of the users’ television content without they even noticing.
It’s a resourceful way to obtain the necessary information because it involves the use of targeted advertising and analytics while the user’s smartphone is on. It’s worth noticing that the gathered information could also provide other data including the websites visited by the user and the type of television programs he or she watches.
Sneaky software code
The FTC warning letter declares to the 12 Android app developers using the SilverPush software that they have to ask permission from users in order to use the device’s microphone.
“These apps were capable of listening in the background and collecting information about consumers without notifying them,” said the Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Jessica Rich. “Companies should tell people what information is collected, how it is collected, and who it’s shared with.”
The FTC will have to take preventive measures from users installing a surveillance app without their knowledge as it has warned the use of the software could be illegal. The creators of the SilverPush software, based in India, claim that the software is not being used within the United States as of now.
As a result, the FTC has been under privacy advocates’ pressure to ensure transparency of monitoring software trackers including SilverPush to consumers. Considering the FTC only issued the warning to Android developers on the Google Play Store, the security of the iOS apps including the SilverPush code remains to be seen.