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Accelerometer IDs smartphones in seconds

October 14, 2013

The accelerometer enables, among other things, the browser to shift from landscape to vertical as a user tilts the phone. It turns out every accelerometer is predictably imperfect, and slight differences in the readings can be used to produce a fingerprint. Marketers could use the ID the same way they use cookies - the small files that download from websites to desktops - to identify particular users, monitor their online actions and target ads accordingly.

It's a novel approach that raises a new set of privacy concerns: Users couldn't delete the ID like browser cookies, couldn't mask it by adjusting app privacy preferences - and wouldn't even know their device had been tagged.

"I don't know if it's been thought of before," said Dan Auerbach, staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "It's very alarming."

Thursday, October 10, 2013
San Francisco Chronicle

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