People these days are afraid, even to the point of paranoia, with all the news, and sometimes misinformation, going on about snooping and violations of privacy. It seems that we will have more to worry about now that researchers from Stanford have discovered that even your smartphone’s most basic components can be used to identify and track you down without your knowledge.
Most of us know, or should know, of the different ways third parties are able to track our devices, be it from GPS, mobile networks, social networking services that append your location information, or even websites that, for one reason or another, want to know your location. Of course, some, if not most, of these allow users to turn such features off, or at least respectfully ask a user’s permission first. It is a frightening thought when there is no way to disable them, and even scarier when users aren’t aware of them at all.
That might just be the case based on this research coming from Stanford, which claims that uniquely identifying marks are etched, so to speak, on hardware such as accelerometers, microphones, and speakers, that can be used to identify and monitor devices. For example, accelerometers are said to have imperfections that vary from one device to another, basically its fingerprint. Web services can read the accelerometer’s data, store this fingerprint, and track the device later on. In the case of microphones and speakers, these have unique frequency response curves that can be used to identify a specific component.
Websites that do these would still need to be authorized to get access to such data. But considering how users probably just breeze through such access prompts, that might not make for much of a preventive measure. And, of course, that doesn’t count sites and services that don’t even bother to ask in the first place.