A new study from Stanford University has shown that a high amount of personal information can be acquired via our smartphones. By making mere phone calls, we could be sharing so much about ourselves with hackers, or even the NSA itself.
If a person only collects information on the calls you make on a daily basis, it can still educate them on the type of person you are. This information has come to light after two Stanford University students revealed that metadata surveillance can reveal your hobbies, interests, and even medical information.
Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler, both computer science students, chose to conduct what can be seen as an NSA-like metadata survey on 546 willing individuals by gaining access to their smartphone with an app called MetaPhone. The app is able to track the phone number of both the caller and recipient, along with the serial numbers of both handsets used in the conversation.
Furthermore, the app is capable of pinpointing the location of the phone itself, which can give an idea where the user is located, as well. From just mere phone calls, both gentlemen found out they could tell of a person's medical condition along with what they enjoy
"One of the things which is most concerning about the privacy properties we've uncovered is how easy it is to make inferences about the metadata on a large scale," said Mayer. "We had a participant who... had calls with a lumber yard and a locksmith and a hydroponics dealer and a bong shop. [You] don't need a PHD in computer science to have some sense of what could be going on there."
The 546 volunteers combined managed to call 33,688 unique numbers. Furthermore, it was determined that 57 percent of volunteers made at least a single medical related call, while 40 percent made phone calls regarding financial services.
Interestingly enough, Mayer and Mutchler could tell that one particular volunteer made calls in regard to having an abortion.
While many, including Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, have claimed that it was impossible to collect data in the fashion used by Mutchler and Mayer, this study has proven them wrong. It makes us wonder what the NSA knows about everyone it has collected metadata on, and what the agency could do with such information.