The most foolproof way to ensure conversations stay private, according to experts, is to delete social-media apps from your phone.
It was after having dinner with a friend in London’s Canary Wharf that I first became suspicious.
We had settled into our seats and arranged our belongings – my iPhone placed in front of me on the table, as usual – when I noticed my companion was struggling to read the menu without glasses.
‘I thought you’d had laser eye surgery?’ I asked. ‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘But it only works for long distance.’
It was a mundane conversation between friends, just like any other that takes place at countless dinner tables across Britain – but one which, in fact, turned into something altogether more unsettling.
Within hours, I used my mobile to scroll through my Facebook account and, with growing unease, noticed adverts for LASIK laser eye surgery and a selection of spectacles from LadyBoss glasses appearing alongside the usual updates from friends.
I don’t even wear glasses myself. Surely, I thought, it must be a coincidence? And yet the timing felt troubling.
Could it be possible that our phones are somehow eavesdropping on our conversations – and that key phrases are being logged and used to send us targeted adverts? The implications, if true, are chilling.
We are obsessed with our phones. They accompany us to our most personal spaces – our homes, our bedrooms and bathrooms – are privy to our most intimate of conversations and are used for all aspects of our business, personal and financial lives.
But what I discovered over several days of investigation reveals what can only be described as a frightening new chapter in our relationship with these devices.
To me, there is no doubt: the microphones on our phones are indeed listening to our everyday lives.
We do not even have to be using our phones to make a call for them to eavesdrop. Unless the microphone is disabled, they appear to be able to pick up words and phrases and translate them into related adverts which then appear in apps such as Instagram and Facebook.
If I hadn’t observed this insidious behaviour for myself, I wouldn’t have believed it was possible.
Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, completely denies using microphones to eavesdrop on conversations, or to tailor adverts.
They insist they only show adverts based on user’s interests and information they voluntarily upload. How then can they explain what I uncovered in this investigation?