Sensor’s Revenge: Your Smartphone Has A Unique Signature… Of Flaws

New Stanford University research claims tiny flaws in smartphones’ accelerometers can uniquely identify users.

Sensor’s Revenge: Your Smartphone Has A Unique Signature… Of Flaws
[Image: Flickr user Somaya Langley]

Tiny, barely noticeable defects in an Android or iPhone‘s accelerometer can easily be turned into a unique signature to track users. Stanford University’s Hristo Bojinov found that these flaws, when combined, essentially fingerprint an individual smartphone and allow it to be traced.

Bojinov has created a program for mobile browsers called Sensor ID that allows users to uncover their own mobile signatures. Full results will be published in the coming months.

This news is of importance to three specific groups: Privacy advocates, online marketers, and law enforcement. While the relevance of this news to the first and last groups are obvious, online marketers now have a challenge: How to create code and frameworks that will allow them to fingerprint phones (and help raise some of that ever-present advertising money) through correlating accelerometer signatures to phone users.

About the author

Based in sunny Los Angeles, Neal Ungerleider covers science and technology for Fast Company. He also works as a consultant, writes books, and does other things.



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