We’ve had the dramas over Samsung’s TVs which seem to hear everything you say, then there’s the concern over just why Apple and Android devices seem to know the places you frequently visit.  It’s a worry for some, and for others the question is simply why?

I took some time this morning to try to explain some of this on The Today Show with Lisa Wilkinson – without doubt it can seem very disturbing to see what is very private information listed before your eyes.  So, what’s going on?

On your Mobile Phone

The clue is in the name.  It’s a Smartphone.  It’s pretty smart.  These days 70% of people are carrying around a device that not only knows who you’re calling and emailing, but it knows where you are!

GPS is an outstanding feature of any device, allowing that tiny little thing to lock eyes with a bunch of Satellites and determine just exactly where you are.  And if it can’t see the Satellites a random bunch of mobile phone towers around you will do their best to determine your location.

What might surprise you is that deep in the settings there’s a little thing called “Frequent Locations” or “Location History” that’s lurking to freak you out when you first discover it.

Using an Android phone with a Gmail account?  Click here: https://maps.google.com.au/locationhistory/b/0 – BOOM, there’s a map showing a whole bunch of locations you’ve been on any given date or period of time.

This is me last August:


Yep, that’s for real.  A trip to Melbourne, plus a trip to the Riverina with the kids to visit some relos, all captured in a map. I didn’t set this up, or ask for it to happen, it’s “on” by Default.

On your Apple iPhone if you dig deep into the settings (SETTINGS >> PRIVACY >> LOCATION SERVICES >> SYSTEM SERVICES (Scroll DOWN for that one) >> FREQUENT LOCATIONS) you might see something like this:


Click on one of those and you’ll see even more


Freaked out?

Don’t be.  They aren’t sharing this with your wife, nor do they even see the info.  (on an iPhone) it’s stored on the phone to enhance things like the traffic reminder in the agenda page, or to help apps determine your ‘home’ location.

But if you are – then flick the switch on the Frequent Locations page and turn it off.  If you’re really freaked out – turn off “Location Services” altogether to stop anything using the GPS locator.

Android users can also dig down and turn off these settings with ease – you’ve just got to dig around in Settings to find out where




Browsing the Web?

Ever noticed that days after searching for “Hunter Valley Accommodation” on Google you’re seeing ads for Hunter Valley Accommodation all over the web!  It’s freaky!!

Google controls a HUGE slice of all the ads you see online.  And because they also know what you’re searching for they can serve you up super-relevant ads.

All part of the service, hoping you’ll click more – and they’ll earn more.

I like it frankly, means you don’t get meaningless ads!

And to make things even more meaningful?  They know much much more about you. Google has a profile of you.  They try their best to work out if you are male or female, how old you are, what your interests are – and they target ads based on all that info.


My profile is pretty spot on, as are my “interests”


Importantly, down the bottom of that page (https://www.google.com.au/settings/u/0/ads) you’ll see an OPT OUT button.  If you’re rocking the tin-foil hat, click that baby – all will be well.

Your Smart TV

Samsung were silly.  They were too honest in their terms and conditions.  Recently updated to basically say that your TV is listening to you and might hear personal conversations and might share them on the internet.

No, your TV isn’t posting couch chats with your wife onto Facebook.

It’s actually only listening for the words “Hi TV” but as soon as you say that it starts live streaming your conversation to a supercomputer which tries to work out if you’re saying “turn down the volume” or “switch to Channel 9”, and no – there isn’t a Samsung Staff member listening in.  But again, if the tin-hat is on the head, press Menu on the remote, go to settings and look for “Smart Features”.  Somewhere in there will be Voice Recognition and you can switch it off!

If you’ve got an Android based Smart TV the location setting will be the same as your smartphone, while on almost all Smart TVs if you dig deep enough into the settings you can disable all these fun features.


So yes, your devices are spying on you.  But they’re doing it for you.  If you don’t see the benefit of that service, turn it off.  Sooner or later if it needs it, you’ll be prompted to turn it back on, at which time you can make a much more informed decision.