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Anonymity properties of stored or transmitted data taken from Bluetooth scans

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Modern consumer wireless devices are increasingly powerful, making them attractive to use as wireless sensor nodes. At the same time, many use protocol suites such as Bluetooth which require devices to reveal data that may make for unique device identifiers. This paper explores this quantitatively through scans covering several thousand devices in different urban locations. In measuring the anonymity afforded by the elements of a Bluetooth device profile, we find that (i) attributes such as the device class are poor for linking sightings of the same device; (ii) the device name can provide a surprising amount of anonymity but when it does not it can be a very effective key to link devices with individuals; and (iii) frequently users exhibit privacy-adverse behaviour, such as placing telephone numbers in device names or using nicknames that are statistically rare.

This is joint work with Dr. Robert Warren of the University of Zürich and appeared at the SecureCom 2009 symposium, a part of IEEE PASSAT .


If time permits and the vibe is right, I’ll also present my talk from RFID Europe:

Inexpensive and Effective Urban Infrastructure for Measurement and Communications

IDTechEx’s summary:
  • Many applications want for infrastructure and bespoke installations are expensive and can be difficult to justify
  • Lamp posts are plentiful and are an appealing candidate for hosting a variety of technologies
  • Our experiences with traffic counting and Wi-Fi communication
  • Interest from local authorities and transport providers because of the promised value for money

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Opera Group Seminars series.

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