Here’s another one that shows how seemingly anonymous data is never truly anonymous:
More than 100 mobile apps leak users’ location regardless of whether they opt to keep the information private, according to researchers.
Power consumption data is the source of the leaks, which make it possible to determine users’ whereabouts with 90 percent accuracy.
A quartet from Stanford University and Israeli defence contractor Rafael developed an app called PowerSpy to demonstrate the leak.
“Modern mobile platforms like Android enable applications to read aggregate power usage on the phone … We show that by simply reading the phone’s aggregate power consumption over a period of a few minutes an application can learn information about the user’s location,” the team wrote in the paper PowerSpy: Location Tracking using Mobile Device Power Analysis (PDF).
“Aggregate phone power consumption data is extremely noisy due to the multitude of components and applications simultaneously consuming power.
“Nevertheless, we show that by using machine learning techniques, the phone’s location can be inferred.”
Power consumption increases the further a user is from a base station and the more objects are in the line of sight between the two.
If an attacker has a general idea where their target is they can track them by plotting these variations, the boffins say.