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FOX43 Finds Out: Don’t Let Your Cellphone Spy on You

It may sometimes feel like our cellphones are permanently attached to our hands. and it can collect a ton of information about us, between our emails, apps and ...

It may sometimes feel like our cellphones are permanently attached to our hands. and it can collect a ton of information about us, between our emails, apps and browsing.

"Arguably the best spying device ever created is being carried around in our pockets and our purses," said Kevin Haley, a cyber security expert at Norton Lifelock.

He says app developers are attempting to cash in on our information by using the technology on devices.

"It has a listening device, it can track your location and it's even got a camera," said Haley.

People often have theories as to how much information our phones are really collecting.

You have probably had moments when you're with your friends talking about a product, you don't google or search anything about it - then boom.

It shows up on your Facebook page as a targeted ad.

We wanted to know if our devices could really be listening to us at all times and collecting that information, even when it's not prompted.

Haley says he gets that question all the time and the answer is probably no.

"It's certainly possible, but we've never seen anything that would prove that would happen," said Haley.

However, that information could be collected by our apps.

Haley says apps that have access to your photos, contacts and location can often predict things about you.

The expert says you should make sure you read the settings and really understand how your cellphone or any other device works.

"I think it's important that companies really be up front about privacy and what they're doing to protect it for us."

We can also do our own homework.

An an iPhone, you can look at all your apps and see what those apps can use.

For instance, my YouTube app has access to my photos, microphone and camera, which makes sense if i'm recording a video and uploading it.

However, if I just want to use YouTube to browse other videos, I can shut those permissions off.

"If you don't think it makes any sense to track your location or access your camera, don't give it permission. there's no reason for you to do that," said Haley.

FOX43 Finds Out also reached out to major wireless carriers and tech companies to see they're response to our story.

Here are there responses:

Apple: Provided us information on Apple's new Privacy Ad.

Amazon: “We take privacy seriously and have built multiple layers of privacy protections into Echo devices for customers to use including a mute button, as well as, the ability to review and delete voice recordings in the Alexa app or on the website. By default, Echo devices are designed to detect the wake word. The device detects the wake word by identifying acoustic patterns that match the wake word. No audio is stored or sent to the cloud unless the device detects the wake word (or Alexa is activated by pressing a button). Amazon does not allow advertising on Alexa outside of certain third party skills such as streaming radio skills like Pandora or news skills like CNN. The experience is similar to what you’d see on the Amazon website or Amazon App. For example, if you make a purchase via Alexa Shopping, that purchase may be used to provide personalized ads, similar to what you’d see if you purchased something on the website. You can opt-out of receiving personalized ads from Amazon at any time.”

AT&T: Our Cyber Aware site provides helpful security tips for consumers. And, we have a blog post that discusses how to improve device security here, https://about.att.com/sites/cyberaware/ni/blog/Device.html.

Sprint: Did not respond to us at the time our story aired.

Verizon: Sent us a link on their information to securing your mobile device.

If you have a consumer story you want Jackie to look into, FOX43 wants to find out.

Send Jackie a message on Facebook or send an email to FOX43FindsOut@FOX43.com.