Nobody knows you like your smartphone. After all, your phone contains a camera, a microphone, a light sensor, an accelerometer, a proximity sensor, and a GPS chip. So, at any given time, it knows exactly where you are, which direction you’re headed, and how fast you’re moving. It can also see and hear what you’re doing. And a lot of researchers are determined to find ways to gather and interpret that valuable stream of information.
That may sound kind of stalker-ish, but experts say that tracking technology has the potential to do a lot of good. Dr. Gary Weiss runs the Wireless Sensor Data Mining Lab at Fordham University. He has developed helpful apps, like one that monitors your physical activity. And it even sends you a “get moving” text when it decides you’re becoming one with your sofa.
Helpful smartphone technology is already in the works for apps that can monitor chronic health conditions by using cameras to analyze blood and skin samples – and apps that’ll warn users who are outdoors when they’re at risk for sunburn.
Still, privacy experts point out that the information your phone collects could provide data miners with an awful lot of personal information. That includes specific details, like whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re tall or short and even if you’re overweight or underweight. How? By comparing the way you walk with the walking styles of known entities – say, a group of short, overweight women.
Another surprise? Cardiologists could use the information your smartphone collects about the way you walk to monitor your heart. But each person’s gait is so distinctive that your walking style could also be used as a kinetic fingerprint for identification purposes. And, for example, your phone could tell when your daughter is carrying it around instead of you.
What do you think? Is smartphone data mining creepy or cool?