How to spy on everyone with a Nike+iPod running kit

I have been eyeing a Nike+iPod running kit since they came out. I have been a little encumbered by already owning a great running watch that tells me my speed, distance run, heart rate and other interesting metrics, and realising that I seem to train better without such data. The Nike+iPod running kit allows you to put on a particular favourite when you reach the difficult part of your workout and to watch these metrics from your iPod (instead of your watch screen). The kit is made up of a sensor that you drop in your shoe and the receiver which plugs into the dock connector of your iPod. It’s possible to turn off the sensor, but the instructions say that it’s also easy just to leave it running in your shoe. This means that people could be walking around with their running shoes with the sensor on the whole time.

A recent study from the University of Washington shows that it possible to track owners of the sensor, without their knowledge, at distances of up to 20m. For under €200, the authors built a modified receiver, which can transmit the locations of multiple sensors back to a base location via WiFi. They show some possible applications, including a Google Maps realtime mashup of sensor locations:

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Pretty impressive! As they say, possible applications include allowing a stalker to track his target, or to build a database of the daily tracks of possible targets — e.g. for a thief checking who is regularly away from home for a set period of time. On a less nefarious note, stores could invade privacy of individuals by tracking movement and associating this with purchasing history. Full details of the research, tools built and real results are in the paper and well worth the read. The authors also point out some simple cryptographic techniques that would slow down potential hackers.

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