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Shhh! Shazam is always listening – even when it's been switched 'off'

xeroks

Pause for thought

Sounds like shazam should think about calling their current "off" funciton "pause" instead, then add a new "off" which actually switches it off.

I would expect most users will eventually just pause, but they should be given the choice.

BillG
Silver badge
Devil

Takes Pivacy

"Shazam takes user privacy very seriously"

Whenever I read this classic Google boilerplate statement, I read it as:

"Shazam TAKES user privacy! Very seriously!"

tomDREAD

Re: Takes Pivacy

Shazam takes user privacy. Seriously! FTFY

Gotno iShit Wantno iShit

Re: Pause for thought

What gets me about this article is Wardle complains of incorrect use of terminology, off is not (fully) off. Yet Wardle is equally guilty of incorrect use of terminology, El Reg too. Wardle found that the sound is not committed to any storage media, processed nor transmitted to the mothership yet the word 'recorded' is repeatedly used.

Recorded: to set down in writing or the like, as for the purpose of preserving evidence.

Sure the mic is on but the data is just going to /dev/nul.

I agree with xeroks, Shazam should call this state paused, give a proper off option too and explain the difference.

oneguycoding

Re: Pause for thought

Ha! But pause usually implies a stop in processing of input data no? Maybe flow-through would be better (or flo-thru for our American speaking friends).

HieronymusBloggs
Silver badge

Re: Pause for thought

"Sure the mic is on but the data is just going to /dev/nul."

No doubt it's stored in at least one buffer (which could be considered a form of recording) before it gets there.

Dan 55
Silver badge

What does 'off' mean?

So we're talking about leaving Shazam running but not listening to music?

Presumably if you exit the app it stops, unless it leaves some always-on background helper process running.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: What does 'off' mean?

"off" means "off" ..

sorry, weird day

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

How else are the US corporations and spooks supposed to harvest all your most personal info...

...if they are not collecting all of your data and personal conversations all of the time?

No need for Big Brother to bug your house when you buy and install this shit for them!

Orwell

Re: How else are the US corporations and spooks supposed to harvest all your most personal info...

Not only MacOS. If you have an Android device, Google is always listening and the microphone cannot be switched off. See the comments here:

http://www.ghacks.net/2014/03/07/mute-microphone-android-device/

Other devices too.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/komando/2015/10/02/3-gadgets-always-listening-and-how-stop-them/73191644/

Who would have thought that the population would not only invite mass surveillance devices into their homes but pay for then too!

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: How else are the US corporations and spooks supposed to harvest all your most personal info...

Google always listening is why most of their captured audio from me is likely to be forceful farts and the phrase that follows, "That's for you Google".

Downside is they can probably identify me at any rest room on the planet.

Voland's right hand
Silver badge

Re: How else are the US corporations and spooks supposed to harvest all your most personal info...

In this particular case I suspect what the developer is saying is true.

By the time you ask an app "WTF is this on the radio" the horse has bolted. It is quite likely not to have enough data for an answer. So having two levels of "OFF" - processing and listening is a natural technical decision.

Now, why did the developers communicate it so poorly is a different story. I suspect it is a case of Hanlon's razor.

allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
Silver badge

Re: How else are the US corporations and spooks supposed to harvest all your most personal info...

"Now, why did the developers communicate it so poorly is a different story. I suspect it is a case of Hanlon's razor."

Well, people who write stuff like "the user's decision not to leverage our app's functionality is fully respected" obviously have poor communication skills.

Deltics

Re: How else are the US corporations and spooks supposed to harvest all your most personal info...

I'd say the exact opposite. They are very highly skilled and very highly trained.

It's the difference between being skilled in communication and understanding the people you are communicating with and their needs/expectations.

bombastic bob
Silver badge
Devil

Re: How else are the US corporations and spooks supposed to harvest all your most personal info...

"No need for Big Brother to bug your house when you buy and install this shit for them!"

Someone would STILL have to code a 'back door' zero-day, or pay them (Shazam devs) under the table for it.

Andy Non
Coat

On the positive side...

The developers are listening to what their users say.

TeeCee
Gold badge
Coat

Re: On the positive side...

That should be easy to prove. A quick check to see if they really do have their products shoved up their arses should do it.

bombastic bob
Silver badge
Thumb Up

Re: On the positive side...

"The developers are listening to what their users say."

BRILLIANT! on MULTIPLE! LEVELS!!! (thanks, I needed a dose of snark)

Dan Wilkie

I mean I get their point - and I can see the technical reasoning behind it. But then I did leave my tinfoil hat behind this morning next to my phone so it might be the mind control...

EastFinchleyite

Language

"so the user's decision not to leverage our app's functionality is fully respected"

Use of our language such as this makes me want to leverage the functionality of my toilet to throw up.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Language

Verbificationalist Ameribarstardationisms of English?

Shirley not.

Oliver Mayes

Re: Language

I'm anaspeptic, frasmotic, even compunctuous to have caused such pericombobulation.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Language

You clever sausage.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Perhaps I overreacted..

Saw the headline and immediately went to the uninstall option!

Robin

Re: Perhaps I overreacted..

You call that overreacting? I put my foot through the screen and sent the Shazam developers the bill.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Perhaps I overreacted..

Which bit was an overreaction?

allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
Silver badge

Re: Perhaps I overreacted..

No.

Vimes

'Shazam takes user privacy very seriously'

Funny how this term is abused so frequently.

Phorm, BT, 3UK, Vodafone, even the UK government when it was begging the EU commission not to sue them over 'implied consent'...

Captain DaFt

'Shazam takes user privacy very seriously'

"Funny how this term is abused so frequently."

Seems plain enough to me; They take your privacy away and are very serious about it.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

'Shazam takes user privacy very seriously'

Funny how this term is abused so frequently.

No it isn't. You can't ignore something properly unless you know exactly what you're ignoring, and that takes serious effort.

Sadly, I'm not even joking.

Your alien overlord - fear me

So if Shitzam is listening, does that bugger up any other app that wants to use the mic, like Skype etc? It certainly caused issues in Windows 10 recently so is MacOS the same?

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

At the very least it's draining power, think I'll stick with Cortana. And whats with the picture, Dog, that's a speaker not a mic!

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Pedantically...

A speaker is a mic. Just as a mic is a speaker.

Switch off your mic and they can still listen in using your speakers.

the spectacularly refined chap

Re: Pedantically...

A speaker is a mic. Just as a mic is a speaker.

That is one of those things that strike me as having been seen on Doctor Who, MacGyver or whatever with no real idea of the practicalities. Seriously, you are not going to get any useable signal out of a moving coil speaker used as a mic even if the surrounding circuitry could theoretically read it. And as for getting any sound at all from a condenser mic, forget it completely.

bish

Re: Pedantically...

Ha! Correct, but they'll first have to wire your speakers to an input, and it'll sound pretty awful. For all that effort, they might as well just bug your entire house, which of course they have.

bombastic bob
Silver badge
Facepalm

Re: Pedantically...

"Switch off your mic and they can still listen in using your speakers."

I think you need a refund on your engineering degree

The First Dave

Re: Pedantically...

Not at all - a speaker and a microphone are essentially the same device, though optimised in two different directions - making a standard speaker vibrate will cause the driver coil to excite, and exciting a mic will make it vibrate.

mad physicist Fiona

Re: Pedantically...

Not at all - a speaker and a microphone are essentially the same device, though optimised in two different directions - making a standard speaker vibrate will cause the driver coil to excite, and exciting a mic will make it vibrate.

Try explaining how that works with a CONDENSER mike.

Yes, a moving coil speaker and a DYNAMIC microphone as theoretically interchangable, but there are practical limits. Using a mike as an earpiece can be practical in a pinch (if generally very tinny) but a speaker as a mike is generally a non-starter. Optimised mics generate signals in the 100mV or less region. A speaker in the same role may be lucky to generate 1µV - that's well into the realm of ultra sensitve amplifiers, yes, it can be done, but even then the audio is generally swamped by the effects of imperceptible air currents and temperature changes. In circuit it isn't connected to such a sensitive pre-amp: it goes to a power amp OUTPUT instead

It's one of those things that asserting blindly is nothing more than intellectual knob waving. In practice it will not work just as the refined chap stated. Claiming otherwise simply shows ignorance.

Doc Ock
Big Brother

We are listening for your safety and security.

Khaptain
Silver badge

Person of Interest

As much as the series if full of hyperbole, the authors were clearly up to date about what was possible even several years ago..

Big Brother is not just watching he is Geo-positioning, Recording, Tracking, Establishing, Analyzing ( Anal being the operative word here) everything and anything wherever possible... Even though the majority of this information is just being used for eventual advertising(spam) it really doesn't require the need for owning a tin-foil hat in order to be paranoid...

Your alien overlord - fear me
Trollface

Re: Person of Interest

You don't need a tin-foil hat to be paranoid. Especially if you own my (patent pending) tin-foil onesie (with hood). Also useful if you're recreating 50s/60s sci-fi films in your underground basement !!

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Person of Interest

Your alien overlord - fear me,

Sorry but my Pedantic streak has kicked in !!! :)

Is there a basement that is NOT underground ???!!!

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Red light

What you need is a red light that comes on whenever the microphone circuit is connected, like professional audio/video gear. Then you'll turn it off when you don't need it.

Unless you think you can get away with saying "grab her by the p*ssy".... ba-dum-ttssssss

MD Rackham

Re: Red light

On laptops that have an LED indicator to show that the camera is on, clever people (pronounced "bastərds") have managed to reprogram the microcontroller to disable the indicator function. So an indicator isn't as useful as one might assume.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Red light

True. It has to be a foolproof circuit, where the LED voltage also switches on the mic's signal path. And the switch (transistor, relay, whatever) needs a bit more voltage than the LED.

Like everything else down to the logic gates, you can't truly begin to trust it until the day we have fully auditable open-spec hardware.

Bob Rocket

Why is anyone surprised ?

I assumed that they were all at it, when you turn it off it just stops uploading it and saves it to a buffer, when you recconnect it uploads it all. Seems Shazam haven't found a buyer for your data so they don't bother ( all your data is slurped by others first).

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Overreaction?

I know privacy is serious business but I don't think the devs have done anything wrong here.

To say "the recording continues" is not true, as the sound is not been recorded (it never is) nor is it being processed. Yes sound waves are entering the microphone, yes those sound waves are compressing/bending something and yes there's a change in resistance in the mic. But is the computer 'listening'?

If I put a current across the mic to produce voltage changes is it now listening? What if an IC is converting those analog voltage changes into a digital representation somewhere? Now is it listening?

This seems a bit like a philosophical question, but as long as the sound is not being actively saved or transmitted somewhere it's a bit like the proverbial falling tree in the forest.

If you want to be cross with the devs then attack them for wasted CPU cycles but please, not privacy....

and yes (i would imagine) there's a current across it so some changes in voltage occur

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Overreaction?

To say "the recording continues" is not true, as the sound is not been recorded (it never is) nor is it being processed. Yes sound waves are entering the microphone, yes those sound waves are compressing/bending something and yes there's a change in resistance in the mic. But is the computer 'listening'?

The author takes care to point out that it's up for debate if keeping the mic online is a bad thing, but from my perspective I don't want an application grabbing data it has no business accessing until explicitly permitted, I don't like those "foot in the door" strategies.

What worries me more is that the macOS and iOS versions share the same SDK, so presumably the same "convenient" behaviour. I think I'll uninstall Shazam from my phone - just to be sure. I use it at best once every month so it won't be missed much (never installed the desktop version - one copy is was enough).

Charles 9
Silver badge

Re: Overreaction?

"The author takes care to point out that it's up for debate if keeping the mic online is a bad thing, but from my perspective I don't want an application grabbing data it has no business accessing until explicitly permitted, I don't like those "foot in the door" strategies."

But what happens when the sound you want to search happened five seconds ago? Or in this case, it takes several seconds to go from completely off to listening and recording, by which time the song's ending and there's not enough left to ID it. I for one have had any number of those, "Damn, just missed!" moments to think sometimes it would be nice for it to anticipate when I want a song identified before I realize I wanted it identified but am too late to do it now.

This is sounding a whole lot like a case of, "You can't please everyone." If you try to appease privacy concerns, people complain because the mic triggers too late. What can you do?

Jeffrey Nonken
Silver badge

Re: Overreaction?

Maybe you can't please everyone, but giving the user the option to choose whether to leave the mic on would go a long way.as would being transparent about it.

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