There’s something strange going on on some Android phones: they start playing an instrumental (8 bit) version of Baby Shark, the children’s song that has become a viral hit. It’s something that happens suddenly, even with the screen off, but it doesn’t seem to be the fault of an app, virus or hacker – but a failure in Google ads. O Tecnoblog investigated the case, and here’s what we found out.
Baby Shark doo doo doo doo doo doo
“Help, my cell phone played Baby Shark’s music alone twice in a row without me clicking anything and I don’t know where it comes from,” says a user on Twitter. “My cell phone rang Baby Shark 8-bit out of nowhere at 3:50 am with no apps open,” explains another. “The third time my cell phone starts playing Baby Shark music out of nowhere,” says another one of several reports.
It is difficult to capture this sound because it is short (about 10 seconds) and plays without user interaction. However, one of the affected people managed to record the moment in this video:
THIS IS THE BABY SHARK TOUCH ON THE MOBILE PHONE. THAT SCRATCH THING TOUCHES NOTHING. pic.twitter.com/duIibKzLpT
– 𝙇𝙖𝙪⁷ (@ 7TAESKYY) December 16, 2020
This is the same sound used in a promotional campaign for Shopee, an e-commerce platform, as you can see in the video below. (The company also made its own version of Baby Shark for an ad shown during Black Friday, but it is a song with lyrics and does not resemble a ringtone.)
Which app is playing Baby Shark?
Mysterious audio appears even on cell phones without the Shopee app installed. So where does it come from? O Tecnoblog counted on the help of three users who had this problem: we analyzed the complete list of installed apps to see if there was a common culprit.
The three devices come with Google apps (Chrome, YouTube, Gmail, Photos, etc.) and share these items: Instagram, Spotify, Telegram, Twitter and WhatsApp. None of them seems to be responsible for the Baby Shark sound, because they only play audio in case of user interaction.
It is worth noting that the three cases involve Motorola phones, so they have in common the manufacturer’s apps like the App Box, Moto and Hello You. However, there are reports that this also happens on Samsung devices, so it doesn’t seem to be something related to the brand.
Does Baby Shark sound come from an ad?
So the Tecnoblog investigated, it seems that the culprit is another: ads playing in the background on Android. We found some similar cases on forums like Reddit and XDA Developers, dated 2018 and 2019: even without using the cell phone, it fires a loud sound with no apparent origin.
In one case, the audio was obviously from an advertisement. In the other situation, the user visited the My Activity on Google section and found a Google URL used to distribute ads.
Google offers a guide for developers who want to put audio ads in the background within their Android apps. The company warns that “it does not recommend playing video ads in the background”.
In addition, Google sets some rules for advertising on Play Store apps. They “can only be displayed within the app in which they are served”, and invasive ads – that is, displayed to the user in unexpected ways – are prohibited.
We believe that Baby Shark audio is a bug, but errors of this type are punctual, without affecting several people at the same time. The reports we find are only of people in Brazil.
How to find out what’s playing Baby Shark
That is, there is no specific app that can be removed to end the problem: this can happen with several programs that have ads.
There are two possible ways to find the app with the Baby Shark ad, and both use Google tools. Check out:
- after listening to Baby Shark’s audio, open the Play Store immediately;
- touch the menu button is on My apps and games;
- touch Installed is on Alphabetical order;
- in the window that opens, choose the option Last used;
- you will see the apps that were recently activated, even if in the background.
The other way involves visiting the My Activity section on Google:
- visit the myactivity.google.com/item link;
- if you prefer, open the search Of google, click on your photo, choose the option Manage your Google Account and follow the path Data and Personalization> My Activity> Viewing Items.
- check out if there are any suspicious URLs or ads in the list.