This article in the Wall Street Journal discusses how smudges on your cellphone can actually be a trove of data that can be used against you. The smudges that you leave behind on your cellphone, wallet, keys, and credit cards can actually linger for months and can reveal gender, diet, medications, and in some cases can reveal places you have visited. This article talks about some experiments that have been done in order to better develop this theory.
What they found was that these chemical signatures that are left to build up on things that you regularly touch. This started off as a new forensic technique first reported by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but it is important to note that this is not yet admissible in court. This method was first thought of to help in cases where fingerprints cannot identify anyone and DNA sequencing cannot identify a person. These chemical signatures left behind can discover the habits of an individual which can be a powerful tool for investigators.
Last year a doctor even did an experiment on thirty nine individuals and their cellphones. The doctor and his colleagues swabbed the individuals’ skin and their cellphones. They swabbed their hands and the front and back of the cellphones and then used a mass spectrometer to detect the molecules in each sample, consulted chemical databases, then tried to identify as many people as they could. They were 90% correct in trying to identify the people.
My initial reaction after reading this article was just pure amazement about how awesome technology and science can be. About five minutes later I looked at my phone and realized just how crazy this article actually is. The fact that someone with a mass spectrometer can pretty much identify personal things about me just by swabbing my cellphone made my head spin. In this study they were able to find traces of citrus, caffeine, different medicines, hair loss treatments, antidepressants, and even eye drops. All of that from the smudge on a cellphone. What started off as pure amazement and appreciation of science and technology, turned into me grabbing a wipe and cleaning my phone. The advancements in science are truly amazing. I think from a forensic science point of view this will be huge down the road. Right now it is not admissible in court but perhaps further down the road, after more experiments it will be. I am all for using any sort of technology necessary for finding the criminals in this world, and if it means swabbing random parts of the crime season for chemical signatures I am all for it.
It truly did amaze me how this doctor and his colleagues were able to identify 90% of the people in this experiment. To me I just think it’s insane how the things you are constantly touching can actually tell someone else all about you. Science and technology are just awesome.