Is your phone listening to you? Why it can and how to stop it

Tips & tricks
6 mins

It is possible for your phone to listen to you without your knowledge. Most modern phones have virtual assistant functionality that has listening capabilities to carry out your commands. Your phone can also be listening to serve you advertisements that are related to a conversation you just had.

Why is my phone listening to me?

When you enable a virtual assistant, it needs to listen to you speak to provide its service. It’s pretty similar to how search engines work: It tracks your inquiries in order to understand the context of your search and answer you more effectively. However, also like a search engine, it uses your data to make sure the ads you see are relevant to your interests.

The more precise the targeting, the more valuable the audience is to advertisers. So if a phone could capture casual conversations, the data available to advertisers would increase significantly.

Read more: What does Big Tech know about you? Find out

Jump to…
Should you cover your phone camera and microphone?
How to know if your phone is listening to you
Is listening to me without my knowledge legal?
How to stop my phone from listening to me (iOS and Android)
Useful tips to protect your privacy on a smartphone
FAQ: About stopping your phone from listening to you

Should you cover your phone camera and microphone?

It’s possible that someone has hacked your phone camera. That said, it is much more likely that an app on your device has permission to access it without you realizing it. The question is whether the app maker uses this permission and the data it receives in an ethical manner. Of course, whenever possible, don’t give apps such permissions.

Either way, there is no downside to covering your phone camera lens, except the inconvenience of removing the cover whenever you want to take a picture or video. For your privacy’s sake, go for it. As for microphones, you can cover them with tape, too, but it’s even more of a hassle if you use your phone for calls.

How to know if your phone is listening to you

1. Choose a topic

Come up with a topic that is completely unrelated to you. It should be something that your phone and your other devices wouldn’t have information about. This means you shouldn’t have searched this topic on any search engine before. To prevent unconscious bias, double-check that your topic isn’t related to your work, hobbies, and personality.

For example, if you don’t drive and never intended to, cars could be a good topic for you.

2. Come up with things to say about this topic

Think of a list of things to say about this topic in a conversational format, as if you’re talking with your friends. Let’s take cars as an example. Things you can say may include words like “cars for sale” “car dealership” or “local cars.”

3. Talk about the topic out loud next to your phone

Talk about this topic to yourself or someone else for a few days in a row. Make sure your phone is within listening range. In the meantime, make sure not to search about this topic in any way.

4. Check if any relevant ads show up

Check to see if ads related to the topic you chose appear on websites and social media platforms.

Is listening to me without my knowledge legal?

It is legal for your phone to listen to you if you have given your consent to your apps or services which use your voice in carrying out their functions. For example, if you’re a user of the Amazon Echo, Alexa has your permission to listen to you and respond to your requests. It only becomes illegal if an app or service listens to you without your permission.

That’s why it’s important to notice the permissions you provide to an app and understand how it handles your recordings. You should notice little things such as when an app asks to access your microphone. Ask yourself if it really needs that permission.

How to stop my phone from listening to me (iOS and Android)

1. Disable your phone’s voice assistant

Most phones have a built-in voice assistant which lets you control your phone with just your voice. If you’re wary of your phone listening to you, it’s wise to disable the voice assistant feature.

Turn off Siri (only on iOS)

The default voice assistant in iOS is Siri. To turn off Siri, follow the steps below:

  1. On iOS, go to Settings.
  2. Tap Siri & Search.
  3. Toggle off Listen for “Hey Siri” and Press Side Button for Siri.
  4. When you see a prompt, tap Turn Off Siri.

Turn off Google Assistant (on iOS and Android)

Google Assistant is Google’s voice assistant, which is available on both Android and iOS devices.


Google Assistant is bundled with the pre-installed Google app on most Android phones. Follow these steps to turn off Google Assistant on Android:

  1. Open the Google app.
  2. Tap your profile picture.
  3. Tap Settings > Google Assistant.
  4. Tap General.
  5. Toggle Google Assistant off.
  6. Tap TURN OFF.


Google Assistant on iOS is a standalone app available on Apple’s App Store. If you’re using Google Assistant on iOS, follow these steps to turn it off.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap Google Assistant.
  3. Toggle Microphone off.
  4. Alternatively, you can remove the Google Assistant app from your iOS device.

2. Turn off the microphone on your phone

You can turn off microphone access for the apps on your iOS or Android phone.


  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Tap Security and privacy > Privacy > Permission manager.
  3. Tap Microphone.
  4. Look through the apps and choose which ones you want to stop giving microphone access to.
  5. Tap the app, then tap Don’t allow.


  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Tap Privacy > Microphone.
  3. Look through the apps and choose which ones you want to stop giving microphone access to.
  4. Toggle the switch off.

Useful tips to protect your privacy on a smartphone

1. Use only trustworthy virtual assistant apps

Granted, virtual assistant apps can do many cool things for us, like checking the weather and making phone calls. They can be vulnerable to hackers looking to exploit voice commands.

When considering using a virtual assistant app, find out whether your phone is already installed with one. For example, Samsung has its own virtual assistant called Bixby which comes pre-installed on almost every new Samsung device. If you want to use a third-party virtual assistant app, make sure to download it through your phone’s app store.

2. Review app permissions

A study that looked at the frequency at which iOS apps sought various permissions showed that 55% of iOS apps requested camera access—second only to requests for access to users’ photo libraries. Often, the requests help users take and upload profile pictures but are not otherwise needed, and yet users don’t remove the permission afterward. At the very least, it’s wise to get a sense of what permissions you’re giving to an app you’re downloading.

3. Update your apps and phone regularly

Attackers are constantly finding vulnerabilities in apps or devices to exploit. Voice assistants have various underlooked vulnerabilities. Attackers can take control of devices by impersonating the voice of a device owner or triggering voice commands using methods like sending radio waves. As such vulnerabilities can put your data and device at risk, it’s wise to regularly perform updates on your software and phones, which mitigate these vulnerabilities.

FAQ: About stopping your phone from listening to you

Which big tech companies are listening to my conversations?
Does the government listen to your phone calls?
How can your phone camera be hacked?
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Vanessa is an editor of the blog.