The truth about what your own WiFi router knows about your life.
If you think WiFi only enables you to tweet, download music and stream Netflix at high speeds, you’re wrong. In fact, its capabilities span far past the screen of whatever device you choose to connect with.
According to Kaveh Waddell for The Atlantic, when devices—whether it’s your iPhone, iPad or Macbook—connect to WiFi routers, they send a large number of signals in order to communicate with them. Additionally, your WiFi router is also “gathering information about how its signals are traveling through the air, and whether they’re being disrupted by obstacles or interference.”
From conclusions based on these signals, yes, the wireless router sitting in your living room is actually spying on you.
When a human walks into a room where WiFi is present, they’re affecting the signal in their own unique way. Depending on a person’s own shape, size and movement, they “absorb” certain waves and “deflect” others—essentially leaving their own digital footprints.
As Waddell explains, “By analyzing the exact ways a Wi-Fi signal is altered when a human moves through it, researchers can ‘see’ what someone writes with their finger in the air, identify a particular person by the way that they walk, and even read a person’s lips with startling accuracy.”
Once a WiFi router is already aware of a given person’s height and physique, experiments have proven their ability to identify humans with alarming veracity. Even when the sample size increases to six people (even with a wall separating you!), WiFi routers STILL will be able to accurately identify their target 89% of the time.
Outside of visual identification, WiFi routers also have keen senses of hearing. According to Waddell’s piece, “by analyzing the distortions and reflections in Wi-Fi signals created by their moving mouths,” WiFi routers can also effectively hear what we’re saying.
While all of this does seem a tad, well, invasive, many researchers believe that using WiFi signals to “spy” on humans may provide a form of security that’s actually more respectful to our privacy. Unlike video cameras or audio recorders that preserve detailed accounts of whatever they’re recording, WiFi signals do the same without “intruding too much,” Waddell writes.
Nevertheless, this is still something to keep in mind next Sunday you spend partially naked on the couch, thinking it’s just you and the WiFi connection.