PowerSpy: Location Tracking using Mobile Device Power Analysis

Authors: Y. Michalevsky, G. Nakibly, A. Schulman, and D. Boneh

Modern mobile platforms like Android enable applications to read aggregate power usage on the phone. This information is considered harmless and reading it requires no user permission or notification. We show that by simply reading the phone’s aggregate power consumption over a period of a few minutes an application can learn information about the user’s location. Aggregate phone power consumption data is extremely noisy due to the multitude of components and applications that simultaneously consume power. Nevertheless, by using machine learning algorithms we are able to successfully infer the phone’s location. We discuss several ways in which this privacy leak can be remedied.

In proceedings of USENIX Security 2015, pp. 785-800.

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