Nike+iPod Sport Kit raises privacy fears

Nike+iPod Sport Kit raises privacy fears

Summary: Researchers from the University of Washington claim that joggers who make use the iPod Sport kit ($29) are putting their privacy at risk. The research was carried out by T. Scott Saponas, Jonathan Lester, Carl Hartung, and Tadayoshi Kohno of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington and centers around the Nike+iPod Sport Kit from Apple.

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TOPICS: Apple
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Researchers from the University of Washington claim that joggers who make use the iPod Sport kit ($29) are putting their privacy at risk.  The research was carried out by T. Scott Saponas, Jonathan Lester, Carl Hartung, and Tadayoshi Kohno of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington and centers around the Nike+iPod Sport Kit from Apple.

This isn't a huge "the sky is going to fall down" privacy risk The sports accessory for the iPod consists of two components - a sensor that is placed onto the sole of a Nike+ shoe and a receiver that plugs into the bottom on the iPod Nano.  The sensor in the shoe detects steps taken while walking, running or jogging and sends this information to the receiver.

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Nike+iPod Sport KitSo where's the privacy issue?  The issue surrounds the fact that the transmitter uses a wireless signal to send information to the receiver.  On its own that's not too bad, but the messages sent from the transmitter contain an unencrypted unique identifier specific to the transmitter which can be detected from 60 feet away, whether you want to be found or not (as long as you are moving).  Because the signal from the transmitter isn't encrypted hooking up Nike+iPod receiver to a PC, gumstix computer or an iPod running Linux can allow unencrypted unique identifiers to be logged.  This could allow specific individuals making use of an Nike+iPod Sports kit to the to be tracked.

Now this isn't a huge "the sky is going to fall down" privacy risk - in fact, I think that leveraging a Nike+iPod Sports kit to do evil has some pretty big drawbacks (these include range, the fact that it doesn't transmit information about where the wearer is and the fact that the user has control over turning it off).  But I think the possibility that this device could be used for evil might come as a surprise to many who bought it.  As users of technology we need to be aware of the possible privacy risks associated with the gear we use and recognize that product manufacturers might not have considered our privacy in their designs.

Read more about the research carried out here.

What are your thoughts on the privacy implications of modern technology?  Is this something that you consider before buying something or does it not worry you?  Do you think that manufacturers need to place more emphasis on the user's privacy?

Topic: Apple

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4 comments
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  • A hot mess! (NOT!)

    First off, any person that wants to use this for evil first needs to know you have the kit. If they know you have the kit they are already close enough to cause you harm. If they have to be within 60 feet to get the signal, they might as well tail you like all over evil villlans. If the kit was GPS trackable then this would be an issue, but if you are a villan and within 60 feet, you are identifiable. This is yet another non-issue and really should not get ANY airtime.
    andrej770
  • Big deal...

    Cell phones are worse.

    http://technology.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,1699156,00.html
    Erik Engbrecht
    • Yeah; get a life...

      We became real paranos with those kind of geekish info. Why in the world they
      believe everything CAN or more importantly WILL be hacked? Plus the biggest
      hackers are the governments. They [KNOW] where you are, what you do and, if you
      stay in front of the TV more, what you will do next!!! My $0.02...
      tunc@...
  • RE: Nike iPod Sport Kit raises privacy fears

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