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article imageWatch out: Wi-Fi can track your movements

By Tim Sandle     Mar 12, 2016 in Technology
A new science study has shown how it is possible to track where someone walks each day when someone's smartphone is connected to Wi-Fi.
When you walk around, with your smartphone or other device tucked snugly into your pocket, every time you wander into an out of a Wi-Fi enabled zone you're leaving a trail of digital breadcrumbs for someone else to pick up. When these digital signals are collected together a map can produced. Even if Wi-Fi is disabled on a phone's settings (while the phone is switched on), some software, such a Google's Android (version 4.3 upwards) still scans for Wi-Fi zones, and this creates a trace signal.
If you tend to walk the same route each day, going to work or college or shopping, then it would be relatively straightforward for your movements to be tracked and traced.
This can happen if someone uses Wi-Fi traces, designed to simply register when a device makes a connection with a Wi-Fi hotspot. The concept has been demonstrated in a series of studies conducted at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, in Switzerland. Dr. Antonin Danalet. of the Transport and Mobility Laboratory, tracked the routes of dozens of students and staff throughout the university campus. The researcher recorded more than two million points picked up by the campus’s 789 WiFi antennas, over a ten day period. From this he was able to differentiate specific routes taken by individual people, and to determine if they were regular traverses or more random wanderings.
This was facilitated through pairing the information with data about the campus grounds, purchases made at the 21 eateries in the vicinity and class schedule.
The outcome of Danalet's study is shown in the video below:
This became the basis of Danalet's doctoral thesis which can be read online (PDF). The information may form a model to be used by companies interesting in building up pictures about where people walk and eat, and other habits. It could, of course, be used for more nefarious reasons.
More about Stalking, Wifi, WiFi Spots, Walking, Tracking
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