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How many times have you had a conversation about something and then — voila! — an ad for that very item, vacation, or service pops up on your smartphone? Alex Hamerstone, government, risk and compliance practice lead at information technology security firm TrustedSec breaks down whether or not it’s a coincidence.

From the NYPost:

“It’s easy to feel like our phone is spying on us. It is actually spying on us, but it is not eavesdropping,” Alex Hamerstone, government, risk and compliance practice lead at information technology security firm TrustedSec, told Fox News via email. “The reason why we see ads pop up that seem to be correlated to the exact thing we were just talking about is because technology and marketing companies gather extensive amounts of personal and behavioral data on us, but it’s not from eavesdropping — it’s from surfing the web, shopping, posting on social media and other things people do online.”

Apparently, there are huge databases about individuals that allow companies to predict our behavior.

“For instance, people who search online for mortgages and also for vacations tend to have a baby within nine months. So if an advertiser sees the first two indicators pop up for a particular user, they will start delivering them ads on baby products. This has nothing to do with eavesdropping, but from regular data collection of online activity and correlating that with established behavioral patterns,” he continued.

Hamerstone explains that although we’re not paying as much attention to less on-the-nose ads, we’re also bombarded with a bunch of pop-ups that don’t fit. He goes on…

“(But) they know so much about us that they can target us with highly specific ads, which are often incredibly accurate and sometimes they even seem to be predictive. They may know your browsing history; they also can correlate stuff. For example, they may have a bunch of data that shows that people who visit a vacation website may also want to diet or get in shape. So you visit a vacation website and then a day later you get an ad for diet pills,” he pointed out. “If you are discussing dieting around your phone, you may assume that your phone was listening, but in reality, the targeted ad came from other behavioral evidence that was collected about you online.”

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CyberScout founder Adam Levin says, however, that there is the possibility that some of your apps are “listening.” The NYPost continues:

“Although corporate user agreements don’t allow them to directly sell that voice data to digital advertisers, they are allowed to sell demographic information which they glean by the consumer’s in-app purchases, links clicked, but also potentially via conversations that are picked up,” explained Adam Levin, founder of identity protection and data risk services firm CyberScout. “This isn’t something companies are admitting to — listening to users — but it is a definite possibility.”

“It’s what he calls the ‘surveillance economy’ — apps and virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana and Alexa are designed to make life easier, but with the cost of surrendering much of our personal lives to the corporate behemoth.”

Click here for how Levin says you might be able to avoid at least some of this snooping.

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