How to stop all your smart devices from listening to you (2023)

Voice recognition is undeniable proof that we live in the future, making daily life more convenient. But what’s the downside for always-on devices that constantly listen for commands?

It’s just that: They’re always listening. Nearly all voice-activated technology uses microphones that listen for “wake words” or other vocal cues. It also means companies like Apple, Facebook and Google hear all your commands and can potentially pick up conversations if your device thinks it hears the wake word. And these devices are accidentally activated far more often than you might feel.

If you’re uncomfortable with how much your smart devices can hear in your home, we don’t blame you. Your smartphone alone contains cameras, a microphone and plenty of other tools that can be misused against you. If you want to take control of your privacy and keep conversations “behind closed doors,” here’s how to stop your smart devices from listening.

Blocking stalkerware

A common way your devices can spy on you has nothing to do with the companies who made them. Instead, this method involves tampering with your tech so it can spy on what you do and say. It’s called “stalkerware,” and if one of these dangerous apps is installed on your computer or smartphone, the person behind it may already know quite a bit about you.

Stalkerware apps are often marketed for “parental control” purposes, but these apps can be abused in the wrong hands.

They generally collect your web browsing history, text messages and phone calls. Some can even capture what you’re doing on-screen. So how can you spot them? A surge in data usage, odd charges on your bill and other red flags are clues something is wrong. Tap or click to see the top 6 signs and what you can do.

Foiling Facebook

Facebook sometimes requests access to the microphone for video-chatting and text-to-speech purposes. But if you’re not exactly comfortable giving Facebook control of your mic, here’s how you can stop it.

(Video) How to stop your smart devices from listening to you! Very informative

(Note: There are many different Android manufacturers, so the steps outlined in this article may be different than your model. If so, check with your model’s manual.) Don’t have your manual handy? Tap or click here for thousands of free online user manuals.

For iPhone

  • Open the Settings app. Then, scroll down and tap Facebook.
  • Toggle the green switch next to Microphone to the off position.

Another way is:

  • Open the Settings app. Then, scroll down and tap Privacy.
  • Locate the menu labeled Microphone and tap it.
  • Find Facebook in the list of apps and toggle the Green switch to the off position.

For Android

  • Open the Settings app. Then, scroll down and tap Personal.
  • Tap Privacy and safety, followed by App Permissions.
  • Tap Microphone and locate Facebook.
  • Toggle the slider to the off position.

If you decide to shoot video or chat with a friend, return to these settings and enable your mic. Switch it off again when you’re finished.

Stopping voice assistants

As convenient as virtual assistants can be, it’s common knowledge they can pick up snippets of private conversations if you say something that sounds like the wake word. If you’re worried about the privacy risks of your gadget’s always-on microphone, here are the steps to turn it off.

(Video) Smart Devices Are Listening To You--Here's How To Delete What They Record

Amazon Echo

  • Locate your Echo device and find a button that looks like either a microphone or a circle with a line through it.
  • Push the button. This stops the device from passing voltage through the mic’s internals.
  • If you wish to use Alexa again, simply press the button again. You can always turn the mic off when not in use.

Siri

  • Open the Settings app on your iPhone. Then, scroll down and tap Siri & Search.
  • Toggle the green switch next to Listen for “Hey Siri” to the off position.
  • You can also turn off Allow Siri when locked if you want to prevent Siri from activating if a button is pressed in your pocket.

Google Assistant

On Android

  • Open the Settings app on your phone. Then, scroll down and tap Account Services.
  • Tap Search, Assistant & Voice. Then, tap Google Assistant.
  • Tap onAssistant. Then, scroll down to Assistant devices and tap Phone.
  • Tap theGoogle Assistantslider to turn it off.

On iOS

  • Open the Settings app. Then, scroll down and tap Privacy.
  • Locate the menu labeled Microphone and tap it.
  • Find Google Assistant in the list of apps and toggle the green switch to the off position.

Cortana on Windows 10

  • Click the Start Menu button and click Settings.
  • Click Privacy.
  • Locate Microphone on the left-hand panel and click it.
  • Scroll down to Cortana and toggle the Microphone permission to Off.

Stop your smart home security systems from eavesdropping

Smart home products make it easy to secure your home from intruders and trespassers, but even these devices have microphones that are always listening. Here’s how you can disable audio recording on two of the most popular home security devices: Google Nest and Amazon Ring.

Google Nest

  • Open the Nest app on your smartphone and select the camera on the home screen.
  • Tap Settings.
  • Select Microphone. Then, tap the switch to turn it off.

Amazon Ring

  • Open the Ring app on your smartphone and select the device you would like to mute.
  • TapDevice Settings followed by Video Settings.
  • Tap on theAudio Streaming and Recordingtoggle to turn off the mic.

Your smart TV

Many smart TVs come equipped with voice recognition. Unfortunately, this means they, too, can listen in. Worse still, some of the most popular smart TVs are spying on your viewing habits and sell that data.

If you want to stop your smart TV from listening to you and scanning your channel-surfing history, check out our detailed guide to disabling these features on TVs made by Samsung, VIZIO, LG and more.

Tap or click here to see the easiest ways to stop your smart TV from tracking you

(Video) Is Google always listening: Live Test

Untangling ultrasonic technology

Are you familiar with ultrasonic tech? Most people aren’t, but your smart devices are definitely aware of it. “Ultrasonic” refers to radio waves that humans can’t hear. They’re perfect for stealthily issuing commands to smart devices.

Why would anyone want to collect these inaudible sounds? It comes down to money. Apps that use ultrasonic tech are constantly looking for “beacons,” which are audio clues that suggest where you shop and what you like to buy. These apps then pair browser cookies to your device to track you.

Thankfully, in 2017, Google announced that 234 Android apps using ultrasonic tracking would be banned or suspended. And this year, the company banned cross-platform tracking as part of its ad policy.

But if you’re still unsure about whether or not an Android or iOS app uses ultrasonic tech for other reasons, you can always disable the microphone using the same steps you used for Facebook.

For iOS

  • Open the Settings app. Then, scroll down and tap Privacy.
  • Locate the menu labeled Microphone and tap it.
  • Find the app you want to turn the mic off for in the list of apps and toggle the Green switch to the off position.

For Android

  • Open the Settings app. Then, scroll down and tap Personal.
  • Tap Privacy and safety, followed by App Permissions.
  • Tap Microphone and locate the app you want to turn the mic off for.
  • Toggle the slider to the off position.

With your devices no longer listening, you can relax and feel a bit less paranoid about using your tech. And the best part: You can always turn the microphones back on again if you want to use them. Just make sure you’re careful about what you say when they’re on — and don’t forget to turn them off when you’re finished.

FAQs

Why is my phone listening to everything I say? ›

If you have a certain setting enabled on your Android phone, saying "OK Google" or "Hey Google" will cause it to listen for a command. Before you say this wake phrase, your phone is listening for the keywords, but is not recording everything you say and uploading it to Google.

Do smart devices listen to you? ›

Many smart devices have an indicator, such as a light, that lets you know when they're recording. These devices have microphones programmed to listen for specific wake words. For example, most Echo devices listen for the word “Alexa.” A smart speaker starts recording when it hears its wake word.

How do I stop smart home devices from spying on me? ›

How to stop your smart home devices from spying on you
  1. Beware of your smart TV. ...
  2. Turn off WiFi when you leave. ...
  3. Delete your data. ...
  4. Disable your microphone and camera. ...
  5. Update all of your devices. ...
  6. Utilize the protection of a firewall.

Can someone watch you through your phone camera? ›

Plenty of spy and stalkerware exists that could compromise your device, and anyone with the right software and expertise could realistically use your phone's camera to spy on you. On top of that, popular app developers aren't immune to accusations of watching you through your phone's camera.

What is the number to check if your phone is tapped? ›

*#21# When you dial *#21#, it will display the various sorts of diversion status which is happening with the number. This will display the information and you will come to know if your calls or messages are tapped.

Does Google really hear everything I say? ›

The short answer is, yes – Siri, Alexa and Google Voice do listen to you. By default, the factory settings have microphone on. Why? Because Siri, Alexa, and Google Voice need to listen to you to optimize their natural language processing.

Can someone listen to my conversations through my cell phone? ›

It's not exactly sophisticated, but criminals can eavesdrop on your mobile communications simply by standing next to you, listening to your call and looking at your phone screen. Shoulder surfing is a common form of attack at cash machines, for obvious reasons, but mobile devices are at risk too.

What devices can spy on you? ›

On the less obvious end of the spectrum, things like smart TVs use cameras and microphones to spy on users, smart lightbulbs track your sleep and heart rate, and smart vacuum cleaners recognize objects in your home and map every inch of it. Sometimes, this surveillance is marketed as a feature.

How far can listening devices hear? ›

How Far Away Can Listening Devices Hear a Conversation? Some of these devices can allow someone to hear a conversation from 100 yards away, while others have a range of 300 yards, depending on what type of listening device is being used.

What are the dangers of having Alexa in your home? ›

Here's why: Placing an Alexa device in certain areas of your house could risk your privacy or even damage your Echo. For example, did you know intruders can access your smart home device from outside if it's placed too close to a window?

Are our phones listening to us? ›

The short answer is: No, your phone isn't listening.

What is background listening? ›

Background listening means that listening is not the primary task you're focusing on. If it is, then we're talking about either passive or active listening. Background listening can be said to be a certain kind of very passive listening, but I don't want to call it that because there are other important differences.

How do I stop my i phone from listening to me? ›

To control which apps have access to your iPhone's microphone:
  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Privacy.
  3. Tap Microphone.
  4. You'll see a list of all apps to which you've granted Microphone access.
  5. Toggle off any apps you'd like to stop from using the mic.
28 Apr 2022

Is my device being monitored? ›

Can you tell if your phone is being monitored? Yes, there are signs that will tell you when your phone is being monitored. These signs include overheating of your device, the battery draining fast, receiving odd text messages, hearing weird sounds during calls, and random reboots of your phone.

Can smart speakers spy on you? ›

The short answer is yes, Alexa is always listening to you. Or rather the microphone on your Alexa smart speaker is always active (by default, at least) and is constantly monitoring voices in your home in order to hear its wake word.

How do I stop device monitoring? ›

To turn off monitoring of devices connected to your home Wi-Fi network:
  1. Open the app.
  2. Tap . The app menu opens.
  3. Tap Devices in my network. The Devices in my network section opens.
  4. Tap Forget this network at the upper part of the screen.
  5. Confirm the operation.

How do I block my phone from being tracked? ›

How to Prevent Cell Phones From Being Tracked
  1. Turn off the cellular and Wi-Fi radios on your phone. The easiest way to accomplish this task is to turn on the “Airplane Mode” feature. ...
  2. Disable your GPS radio. ...
  3. Shut the phone down completely and remove the battery.

Is my phone connected to another device? ›

To find out if another phone or device is linked to your Android phone, you can go to the Settings menu on your phone and select "Linked devices." From here, you'll be able to see a list of all the devices that are currently connected to your account.

How can I tell if I'm being spied on? ›

Here are 10 of the most common signs that someone is spying on your phone:
  • Unfamiliar Applications. ...
  • Your Device is 'Rooted' or 'Jailbroken' ...
  • The Battery Is Draining Fast. ...
  • Your Phone Is Getting Very Hot. ...
  • Unusually High Data Usage. ...
  • Strange Activity In Standby Mode. ...
  • Issues With Shutting Down the Phone. ...
  • Odd SMS Messages.
4 Sept 2022

What happens when you dial ## 002? ›

##002# - If your voice call or data call, or SMS call has been forwarded, dialling this USSD code will erase them. *#21# - By dialling this USSD code, you would get to know if your calls have been diverted somewhere else or not.

What is the use of * * 4636 * *? ›

Android code: *#*#4636#*#*

This code will open up a menu that shows information about your phone's data usages.

What happens if you dial *# 06? ›

Display your IMEI: *#06#

To access it, type in the above code, and then the green call button to prompt your IMEI number (or your International Mobile Station Equipment Identity number, but you already knew that). The IMEI is unique to your device.

Can Google legally listen to your conversations? ›

And if you've given your consent in your Google assistant settings, for instance, it's legal to track your conversations with Google Assistant, Siri, or Alexa for marketing purposes. It only becomes illegal if an app is spying on you without your consent.

Can Google speakers spy? ›

Your Google Nest speaker is always listening, albeit just for the "Hey Google" wake word. However, there are ways to prevent this... Google's smart speakers are equipped with microphones so that they can hear your commands from across the room. However, those same microphones could also be used for eavesdropping.

Is my phone secretly listening to me? ›

Yes, your phone is listening to you — to an extent and namely through virtual assistant apps, that is. First came Siri in 2011, then came Google Assistant, and then Alexa and Cortana all followed.

Can you tell if your phone is bugged? ›

If you hear pulsating static, high-pitched humming, or other strange background noises when on voice calls, it may be a sign that your phone is being tapped. If you hear unusual sounds like beeping, clicking, or static when you're not on a call, that's another sign that your phone is tapped.

Can hackers see what I'm doing on my phone? ›

“Therefore, if someone hacks your phone, they would have access to the following information: email addresses and phone numbers (from your contacts list), pictures, videos, documents, and text messages.” Additionally, he warns, hackers can monitor every keystroke you type on the phone's keyboard.

How do you block hidden microphones? ›

Quick take: How to block listening devices:
  1. Use a noise blocker or white noise generator to block long-distance recording or hidden devices in your home.
  2. Use frequency scanners or infrared smartphone apps to find hidden cameras.
  3. Common sense is your greatest defense against spies. So do not share more than you need to.
7 Dec 2021

How can I tell if my house is bugged? ›

And don't forget that using a hidden camera detector or an RF signal detector is the best way to know for sure whether your home, office, place of business, or vehicle has been bugged with hidden microphones, cameras, phone line wiretaps, or any other type of illegal surreptitious surveillance devices.

Where do people hide listening devices? ›

Experts advise that the most common spots to hide surveillance devices are spaces where people spend most of their time. In hotel rooms and houses, the target spots include the area near the bed, bathroom, living room.

Can listening devices hear through walls? ›

The iPhone feature that has grabbed attention is 'Live Listen'. This feature practically makes your iPhone a spying device as it can let you hear conversations through the walls. The distinct feature came to the surface after a TikTok user, Dalilamouhib, discovered it and posted a video about it.

Is there an app to detect hidden cameras and listening devices? ›

Applications like Glint finder for Android phones and Spy Hidden Camera Detector for IOS are examples of a hidden microphone detector app. They utilize a smartphone's camera and flash lighting to look for any hidden camera/ video recording devices.

How can you tell if someone is listening on Alexa? ›

Turn on a notification sound to alert you when Alexa is listening to your conversation (using “Sounds” under “settings”). Turn off “personal results” from the Google Home app (under “settings” and “more”).

Can someone remotely listen to Alexa? ›

Yes, you can. How great is that? You can use another Alexa device to access your own Alexa device, either at home or elsewhere to listen to Alexa remotely. You do this by using a feature called Guest Connect.

Who is Alexa's voice? ›

Despite Amazon's secrecy, an extremely likely candidate source for the voice of Alexa has been revealed by author Brad Stone. According to Wired, Stone's research for his book, "Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire," pointed to Boulder, Colorado, voice actress Nina Rolle.

Can you block a listening device? ›

Blocking a listening device is usually a matter of either distorting the sound input received by the device, sending another sound to mask it, or blocking the sound outright. Typically, sound jammers are used to neutralize nearby microphones.

How do you block laser eavesdropping? ›

Visible laser light can be blocked by anything that also blocks conventional light, such as a solid curtain, a wall, or even a sheet of paper. If you do see flashes when all external light paths are blocked, consult your doctor or do an internet search. There can be medical conditions that cause flashes.

Is your smart speaker spying on you? ›

The short answer is yes, Alexa is always listening to you. Or rather the microphone on your Alexa smart speaker is always active (by default, at least) and is constantly monitoring voices in your home in order to hear its wake word.

Can someone hear your conversations through your phone? ›

It's also a common misconception that a phone can be hacked or that someone can listen to your phone calls just by knowing your phone number. This is not possible and is completely false. You can read more information here.

How far can a listening device work? ›

How Far Away Can Listening Devices Hear a Conversation? Some of these devices can allow someone to hear a conversation from 100 yards away, while others have a range of 300 yards, depending on what type of listening device is being used.

How can I tell if my home is bugged? ›

And don't forget that using a hidden camera detector or an RF signal detector is the best way to know for sure whether your home, office, place of business, or vehicle has been bugged with hidden microphones, cameras, phone line wiretaps, or any other type of illegal surreptitious surveillance devices.

How do you find out if there is a hidden camera in my house? ›

7 Ways to Spot Hidden Cameras
  1. Look for Odd Objects. It's a good practice to thoroughly scan your surroundings whenever you enter a new room. ...
  2. Use a Flashlight. ...
  3. Use Your Smartphone Camera. ...
  4. Scan the Wi-Fi Network. ...
  5. Use a Phone Call to Detect Interference. ...
  6. Use a Hidden Camera Detector App. ...
  7. Use a Specialized RF Detector.
13 Jul 2022

What is a laser listening device? ›

A laser listener is a surveillance device that uses a laser beam to detect sound vibrations in a distant object. A laser listener is designed to allow eavesdropping with a minimal chance of exposure.

Can a mirror stop a laser? ›

The best way to stop a laser is to use a mirror to send it away or put some object in the way. The object will absorb the light from the laser much like your clothes absorb some of the light from around you.

Is there a way to detect hidden microphones? ›

Searching for Electrical Signals. Sweep the area with an RF detector. RF detectors allow you to scan for radio frequencies used to transmit from hidden cameras and microphones. Purchase an RF detector online or from your local electronics store and wave it around the area you think is bugged.

What are the dangers of having Alexa in your home? ›

Here's why: Placing an Alexa device in certain areas of your house could risk your privacy or even damage your Echo. For example, did you know intruders can access your smart home device from outside if it's placed too close to a window?

What devices can spy on you? ›

On the less obvious end of the spectrum, things like smart TVs use cameras and microphones to spy on users, smart lightbulbs track your sleep and heart rate, and smart vacuum cleaners recognize objects in your home and map every inch of it. Sometimes, this surveillance is marketed as a feature.

Do smart speakers record conversations? ›

While smart speakers might not actually eavesdrop on your conversations, they certainly have the potential to record them. And an Amazon employee might hear them.

What is the number to check if your phone is tapped? ›

*#21# When you dial *#21#, it will display the various sorts of diversion status which is happening with the number. This will display the information and you will come to know if your calls or messages are tapped.

Can you tell if your phone is being monitored? ›

Can you tell if your phone is being monitored? Yes, there are signs that will tell you when your phone is being monitored. These signs include overheating of your device, the battery draining fast, receiving odd text messages, hearing weird sounds during calls, and random reboots of your phone.

Is my phone connected to another device? ›

To find out if another phone or device is linked to your Android phone, you can go to the Settings menu on your phone and select "Linked devices." From here, you'll be able to see a list of all the devices that are currently connected to your account.

Videos

1. What your smart devices know (and share) about you | Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu
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2. Are your smart devices listening to you? What you can do about!
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3. Health UnaBASHEd: Amanda McClelland RESOLVE
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4. How to speak so that people want to listen | Julian Treasure
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5. How to stop your smart TV from spying on you
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6. When technology can read minds, how will we protect our privacy? | Nita Farahany
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