The Way You Swipe Your Phone Can Be Used To Track You

Shany Muchnik/

Privacy is on everyone's mind lately, as tech consumers realize the extent of what tech and social media companies track and monitor. But even the way you swipe your phone can be translated into data for companies to use.

Australian researchers from CSIRO Data61 conducted some testing using an Android app built for this purpose, CNET reports, and found that a variety of touch gestures, including swipes, taps and key strokes "contain sufficient information to uniquely identify and track users."

The researchers published a paper explaining the results of their experiment and presented it at the recently held Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium in Barcelona.

The app, called Touch-Track, gathered gestures from 89 different users. Among the findings: If users are writing on a touchpad, their handwriting would reveal 73.7 percent of the information necessary to uniquely identify them. Left swipes offered a bit less, 68.6 percent of information.

"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 also detect if multiple people are using the same device.

While you may have put some stringent privacy settings in place on your devices, your finger motions could still give a lot of information away, some of which you might not be comfortable with as a private individual.

Similar technology could be used to ensure you are who you say you are, however. The Defense Department is currently researching ways to better verify the identities of Defense employees. The agency plans to use technology embedded in Defense smartphones that will detect personal signatures such as hand pressure and wrist tension, to make sure the person using this device is supposed to be using it.