Smartphones Now Have The Ability To Identify You By Your Gait

Smartphone security is becoming more sophisticated by the day. Fingerprint scanning and facial recognition schemes are starting to supplant PIN codes and passwords, but have you wondered what the next frontier might be? One possible avenue is behavioral biometrics, and a company called UnifyID is leading the charge.

Behavioral biometrics is what it sounds like—it's a profile of a person's identity based on how they use their smartphone, based on data from accelerometers, gryroscopic sensors, and so forth. This form of security can detect if someone's typing pattern is unusual (and therefore might be an attempt by a hacker to break into a device), and can even profile someone's gait.

John Whaley, head of UnifyID, told The Economist that this type of biometric security can identify someone's "unique motion fingerprint." It's not a literal fingerprint, but with the array of sensors that today's smartphones are equipped with, behavioral biometrics can measure things like a person's stride, including how many steps the person takes in a minute and even which foot hit the pavement first.

UnifyID has managed to take all of these data points and sort gaits into around 50,000 different types. That information is further bolstered by information about a person's finger pressure when typing or tapping on a touchscreen, location data (such as where a person typically uses their smartphone), and other details.

The amount of information that our smartphones can reveal about us is both impressive and frightening. It all depends on how the information is used, and whether it can be kept out of nefarious hands. At its best, behavioral biometrics can accurately detect when fraud is occurring, keeping our devices and accounts secure by continually authenticating us.

In the wrong hands, however, this sort of thing provides a wealth of information that can be used to spy on users. The Cambridge Analytica scandal that rocked Facebook serves as a cautionary tale of how technology and privacy can be at odds.

Either way, this technology is out there. UnifyID has been offering behavioral biometrics to clients since 2017, including to banks, online retailers, ride sharing companies, and so forth. It seems only a matter of time before this info is also sought after by advertisers as well. Crazy world we live in, isn't it?