Low battery levels can track online activity; research

Researchers discovered that website owners could use HTML5 Battery Status API for digital marketing purposes

Tags: Cloud computingCyber crime
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Low battery levels can track online activity; research The HTMl5 Battery Status enables web owners to provide users with ‘low power' versions of their site or app, this is a web standard.
By  Aasha Bodhani Published  August 4, 2016

Security researchers from Princeton University discovered that low battery levels could be used to track a user's online activity.

Researchers, Steve Engelhard and Arvind Narayanan, sourced one million websites and found there have been occasions where websites have used HTML5 Battery Status API to track online activity.

The HTMl5 Battery Status enables web owners to provide users with ‘low power' versions of their site or app, this is a web standard.

The Princeton researchers created a web privacy-tracking tool dubbed openWPM, and found two tracking scripts that use Battery Status API information to track devices. Furthermore, they added that "existing privacy applications are not effective enough in detecting newer fingerprinting techniques."

However Engelhard and Narayanan admitted that the are not sure what the information is being used for, but could perhaps target users with digital marketing.

This is not the first time this subject has hit the spotlight; in 2015 security researchers warned that HTML Battery Status API enables websites owners to access battery status information of a mobile device or laptop and how long it will take to die or recharge to full capacity.

"Some companies may be analysing the possibility of monetising the access to battery levels," Lukasz Olejnik, a researcher who examined the battery status API's potential privacy issues in 2015, wrote in a blog post. "When battery is running low, people might be prone to some - otherwise different - decisions. In such circumstances, users will agree to pay more for a service."

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