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posted by mrpg on Saturday April 16 2022, @05:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the hush dept.

You're muted... or are you? Videoconferencing apps may listen even when mic is off:

Kassem Fawaz's brother was on a videoconference with the microphone muted when he noticed that the microphone light was still on—indicating, inexplicably, that his microphone was being accessed.

[...] "It turns out, in the vast majority of cases, when you mute yourself, these apps do not give up access to the microphone," says Fawaz. "And that's a problem. When you're muted, people don't expect these apps to collect data."

[...] They found that all of the apps they tested occasionally gather raw audio data while mute is activated, with one popular app gathering information and delivering data to its server at the same rate regardless of whether the microphone is muted or not.

The researchers then decided to see if they could use data collected on mute from that app to infer the types of activities taking place in the background. Using machine learning algorithms, they trained an activity classifier using audio from YouTube videos representing six common background activities, including cooking and eating, playing music, typing and cleaning. Applying the classifier to the type of telemetry packets the app was sending, the team could identify the background activity with an average of 82% accuracy.

[...] "With a camera, you can turn it off or even put your hand over it, and no matter what you do, no one can see you," says Fawaz. "I don't think that exists for microphones."

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17 2022, @02:01AM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17 2022, @02:01AM (#1237589)

    You’ve clicked the mute button in, say, Google Meet.

    Then you start talking or even cough and Google Meet pops up a little warning along the lines of “Are you trying to speak? Nobody except Meta can hear you right now because I’m pretending you’re muted.”

    Now you know you need to clock that Unmute button.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17 2022, @12:22PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17 2022, @12:22PM (#1237697)

    That's probably the justification. They can't pop up a message telling you that you're muted without the system listening. Sort of like how those assistants can't respond to the requests if they aren't constantly listening to everything.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17 2022, @07:08PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17 2022, @07:08PM (#1237741)

    Or you mute the actual microphone in pulseaudio and then you get a message "Your microphone seems to not be working correctly."

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18 2022, @04:15PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18 2022, @04:15PM (#1237934)

    Yeah, I mean the existence of this feature means they are not trying to hide the fact that they can still hear you.

    At least not from anyone that can piece together that 2+2=4