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How to make sure Big Tech really isn’t listening

Our privacy is decreasing as we become more reliant on our devices. We enjoy the convenience of voice recognition and commands, but these features expose us in ways we might not be aware of.

Whether we consented to it or not, our smartphones, speakers and home devices are always listening. In most cases, they need just a “wake word” to activate. Tap or click here to find out if your iPhone or Android phones are listening.

You can fiddle with software settings, but this is a somewhat limited solution as apps can work around it. Sometimes the simplest method is best, and we have a couple of cheap and easy fixes for you.

Plug the leak

When you plug in a headset, your device’s microphone is disabled in favor of the external microphone. What if you could fool your phone, tablet, laptop or computer into believing that you plugged in your own microphone? That’s where microphone blockers come in.

Newer devices have microphones controlled by software, so there’s no physical switch to disable the microphone. Products like this Mic-Lock microphone blocker are designed to work around this. It’s available from Amazon for under $12.

The Mic-Lock houses a semiconductor circuit that mimics a live microphone. This disables your device’s microphone and blocks all audio. Plug it into your phone and it will think you just switched over to a headset.

The Mic-Lock even works on devices that need an adapter for a 3.5mm connection, such as a newer iPhone. “If you have a headphone jack and want an extra layer of privacy you should get it. I even tried this on a new iPhone without a jack but with an adapter and it worked,” one verified purchaser wrote.

Beyond the device itself, apps have been known to snoop on their users. Tap or click here to see how one of the most popular apps out there was caught.

The DIY option

Remember that post from Mark Zuckerberg that revealed his method to block access to his laptop camera? The founder of the largest social network on the planet put a piece of tape over his webcam.

RELATED: How to stop all your smart devices from listening to you

You can take a cue from Zuck and create your own low-cost solution to the microphone issue. Grab a pair of cheap headphones and cut the cord near the jack. Now you can plug it into your computer or phone without worrying about live sound input.

If you don’t want to cannibalize your headphones, you can get this set off of Amazon for less than $5.

We may receive a commission when you buy through our links, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

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