Your Phone Screen is the Latest ID Theft Portal

By Gary Cutlack on at

Researchers wiping down the displays of a handful of smartphones claim they give away masses of secrets about our lives -- if you can count what you had for dinner and your skincare regime as a secret -- with traces of spices, drugs and medical products building up quite a data dump on the user.

Scientists at the University of California San Diego screened 500 samples via mass spectrometry of swabs taken from 40 phones for traces of the lives of their owners, reporting that a decent "lifestyle profile" of the user was able to be salvaged from the stuff smeared into the joins and across the buttons.

Dr Amina Bouslimani said of the findings: "By analysing the molecules they left behind on their phones, we could tell if a person is likely to be female, uses high-end cosmetics, dyes her hair, drinks coffee, prefers beer over wine, likes spicy food, is being treated for depression, wears sunscreen and bug spray -- and therefore likely to spend a lot of time outdoors -- all kinds of things."

Washing your hands won't stop future advertisers from finding out your toothpaste brand either, as the quantities are so small, and stay in place for so many months, that avoiding staining your phone with life clues is impossible. [BBC]

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