Is your cell phone listening to your private conversations? How you can make it stop

- Is your smart phone so smart that it's eavesdropping on your private conversations - then manipulating using that information to manipulate what you see on your social feeds?

That’s what some people are saying after strange coincidences have been reported online.

In a report on WNYC.com, one iPhone user - who said they were humming a song in the shower while their phone was nearby - was surprised that the same song she was humming was the first to play on a random shuffle later in the day.

Another report on BBC.com said that a smartphone user - who had a conversation with their mother about a friend who was killed in an accident - later found the name of the friend and details about the accident in their suggested search options.

Even in our own newsroom, several FOX 5 staff members have stories about the topics in their private conversations appearing in their social media suggestions.

So – are these just creepy coincidences or is this real?

Tech expert Pete Erickson joined us and said it may be a new reality that we have to deal with.

"We have been giving computers a lot of information for long time. We've been doing Google searches for a long time. All of that information goes into big databases and we have a profile out there about who we are. Now, our voice is becoming one of those inputs and so marketers are figured out how to get access to our voice," Erickson said.

"It's up to the consumer to really understand how to turn off these capabilities so marketers can't just listen to everything that we're doing."

Artificial intelligence is becoming part of our lives, Erickson said. With programs like Apple Siri, Amazon Echo, Google Now, Microsoft Cortana , VIV, IBM Watson – these voice-activated personal assistance seem to always be on in the background.

So - how can you protest yourself from having info gathered from conversations you have near your smartphone?

The best defense, Erickson said, is to not allow apps access to your phone’s microphone.

Here’s how you do it:

iPhone Users:

Click on Settings > Privacy > Microphone | You will find a list of apps that have requested access to your phone’s mic. Scroll through and turn off the apps you do not want to have access.

Android Users:

Click on Settings > Apps | Go to each app and adjust the microphone access setting.

"It's a reality of today that we have to be vigilant," Erickson said.

Get more info online: http://www.modev.com/

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