Your Smartphone Identifies You By How You Use Apps, Study Shows

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How Picking Up Your Smartphone Could Reveal Your Identity

Psychology News – A study shows how software in smartphones can identify you within minutes of you picking up your smartphone. It gives interesting insight into digital behavior and information security in the digital age.

A recent study reveals how picking up your smartphone can help reveal your identity.

The researchers at Lancaster University showed how app usage data in smartphones can reveal a person’s identity. Their study also threw light on patterns of digital behavior and information security in the digital age.

The findings are published in Psychological Science.

The researchers examined 28,692 days of smartphone usage from 780 people. They fed 4,680 days of usage data from smartphone apps into statistical models that learnt the participants’ daily app use patterns. They then tested if the models could identify an individual from his/her smartphone activity.

Elaborating on the results, one of the lead researchers, Dr. David Ellis, said, “Our models, which were trained on only six days of app usage data per person, could identify the correct person from a day of anonymous data one third of the time.” Indeed, around 75% of the time, the correct user would be among the top 10 most likely candidates that a specific day of data belonged to.

The results further showed that, as a group, people follow consistent patterns in their app usage behaviors on a daily basis. For instance, they use facebook the most and the calculator app the least.
But, their digital footprints also separate them, even in a big anonymous group. The same person shows distinctive patterns of digital behavior when compared with hundreds of other individuals with different app use patterns.

Such studies in digital footprints provide new opportunities for law enforcement, but pose threats to digital security and data confidentiality.

Software—which unlock your identity within minutes of you picking up your smartphone—can also read your data usage patterns, even when you are logged out of your accounts. Even without monitoring user-behavior within the apps themselves, an identification of your app usage data occurs.

Therefore, your private data remains at the risk of easy misuse.

To Know More You May Refer To

Shaw, H., Taylor, P. J., Ellis, D. A., & Conchie, S. M. (2022). Behavioral Consistency in the Digital Age. Psychological Science.

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