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Safety: Nike + iPod Sportkit Surveillance?

Posted by Filed Under: Gear & Apparel, GPS & Mapping

The University of Washington School of Computer Science and Engineering recently proved that the new Nike/iPod Sport Kit can be used in covert surveillance activities. In an article titled Devices That Tell On You: The Nike+iPod Sport Kit the author shows that with a little know how and ingenuity the Nike foot pod can be used for surveillance – even without the iPod in use.

The article quickly outlines what the technology is, how it works and what could have been done to prevent malicious use. However, the authors quickly point out the following:

We stress, however, that there is no evidence that Apple or Nike intended for these devices to be used in any malicious manner. Additionally, neither Apple nor Nike endorsed this study.

In the end, I don’t think this is really a big issue. The concept and thought behind the study is important, security in technology is something we all need to pay more attention to. But, the range of the foot pod is 60 feet – not very far. Plus, the foot pod does not contain any personal information – no name, social security number, or birth date. Nothing really helpful. I guess you could be easily tracked going in and out of doors or locations, but even that provides no real personal information. The government will not be tracking your exercise from an illicit satellite in constant orbit over your home town. Also, if you see someone with a black wand like device following you around scanning your feet, be wary.

Bottom-line, simple security precautions eliminate any issues. Turn off the foot pod when not in use for running. Or take it out of your shoe all together. It can’t be tracked if it’s not there.

Keep running!



6 Comments
  1. Ebitty on December 1st at 10:52 am

    As a techy myself, these kind of projects are always interesting to read about. But who are these villainous people that have nothing better to do than track the whereabouts of the every-man?

    It’s good to know the potential is there. As for me, I look forward to getting my Nike + kit this Christmas. Likely I will be turning off the the sensor in between runs.

  2. Jessica on December 1st at 2:02 pm

    Very informative. Thanks!!

  3. mark "booya" sta-ana on December 1st at 2:20 pm

    Aaron,

    Thanks for chiming with sensible advice on the issue. When I started seeing news of this problem appearing on the blogosphere, I groaned because I expected every tin foil hat wearing fool to be up in arms about this revelation.

    Thank goodness CRN aren’t /those/ kinda guys ;)

  4. Tammy on December 2nd at 7:12 pm

    I agree, not a big deal. I think it was more of a ‘be aware’ for women who may be victims of stalking then any kind of identity theft type activities. As for government satelites, they are sooooo watching me. Now if you’ll excuse me, my foil hat is in need of repair. ;)

  5. jank on December 6th at 1:59 pm

    I’ll go into a little bit more detail over at RunMystic, but this is a concern with ANYTHING that’s wireless – with only a little bit of knowhow, as little as $100 in parts and materials, and a little bit of open source software, anything that transmits radio waves can be tracked and intercepted.

    Radio Waves go through the air in much the same way that sound waves do. And they can be intercepted in much the same way that a conversation can be overheard.

    As far as relative risks goes, your cell phone is in a pretty similar frequency band, periodically transmits locating information to keep aware of which towers are in the area, and has a range of miles instead of feet… Nike+iPod has much more in common with the wireless transmitter for a Heart Rate Monitor than the cell phone…

  6. Run, Run, Run, Run, Run, Cycle, Cycle Too » Nike + iPod kerffule on December 6th at 10:06 pm

    [...] So, there’s been a bunch of flopping and twitching lately about the fact that the wonderful Nike+iPod kit can be used to track users, and isn’t that a terrible invasion of privacy, and wah-wah-wah. [...]

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