We’ve all been warned about how apps that we use are tracking our every move and store away our private information. But what if we told you that you may need to be wary of your smartphone screen as well?
Researchers have revealed that the way you swipe, pinch and tap your smartphone screens could be used to track your identity and potentially breach your privacy.
In a research paper presented to the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium in Barcelona last week, researchers from CSIRO Data61 in Australia found that “touch gestures contain sufficient information to uniquely identify and track users.”
Through a purpose-built Android app, the team collected touch and gesture data, finding that writing samples can reveal 73.7 percent of information about a user and left swipes can reveal up to 68.6 percent of information.
By combining data on a person’s taps, swipes and keystrokes alongside writing samples, researchers were able to reveal up to 98.5 percent of information about the user.
The team warns that this “touch-based tracking” can be used to continuously track users, both on a single smartphone and across multiple devices.
“While regular tracking tracks virtual identities such as online profiles, touch-based tracking has the potential to track and identify the actual (physical) person operating the device,” the researchers wrote. “It can distinguish and track multiple users accessing the same device.”
While data breaches and scandals like the Facebook Cambridge Analytica privacy debacle are making us more aware of our privacy settings, the researchers warn that privacy settings may not be enough, as plenty of apps need to collect information about gesture input that “enhance the quality of experience” on the app.
You may soon have to watch where you swipe.