How to block ultrasonic ad beacons from tracking you

Creative Commons 3 - CC BY-SA 3.0

Advertising has changed drastically since the heyday of Madison Avenue depicted in the popular television series Mad Men.  No longer do a handful of executives in Manhattan determine what advertising Americans should see on television or listen to on the radio. Now, complex algorithms that utilize individual behavior as inputs determine what advertising is delivered.

Your personal characteristics such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, along with your physical activities, location, personal interests, etc… now play a major role in the type of ads you are served.  While the industry claims that because of all of the data collection they are able to provide you more relevant ads, others state that surveillance advertising is discriminatory and predatory.

During the past few years, a new type of tracking has gained steam that uses ultrasonic ad beacons that can provide very highly detailed personal information about digital device users.  Last year, the FTC sent letters to some companies that were using this type of technology embedded into television commercials without properly notifying consumers.

Currently, there are hundreds of Android apps that are using this tracking technology. Unfortunately, hackers may also utilize ultrasonic technology for nefarious purposes that may put you and/or your family in harm’s way.  If you are concerned about this type of tracking, one way of blocking these apps from giving up your personal information via ultrasonic technology is not to download them; another is to deny them permission to access your microphone.  In general, very few apps actually need access to your microphone to work so don’t forget to constantly review your apps’ microphone and other permissions.

Technology is constantly changing so its imperative to understand how it may affect your personal privacy, health, and safety.