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Smartphone Germ Study Reveals Details About Users' Lifestyles

Image: Smartphone Germ Study Reveals Details About Users' Lifestyles

Molecules left behind on smartphones reveal details about the users' lifestyles, according to a new study. (Pressureua/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Wednesday, 16 Nov 2016 10:55 AM

In a smartphone germ study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, said they can reconstruct the user's lifestyle, from diet, to health status, use of hygiene products, and even places he or she have visited.

The researcher at the university's School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, stated that they could link smartphone users to such lifestyle sketches through traces of chemicals, molecules and microbes left on the device. Details of their work were published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"The collective repertoire of molecules found on these objects provides a sketch of the lifestyle of an individual by highlighting the type of hygiene/beauty products the person uses, diet, medical status, and even the location where this person may have been," the study's abstract said.

"These findings introduce an additional form of trace evidence from skin-associated lifestyle chemicals found on personal belongings. Such information could help a criminal investigator narrowing down the owner of an object found at a crime scene, such as a suspect or missing person," the study noted.

The technology used could not only help in criminal profiling, but also in airport screening, medication adherence monitoring, clinical trial participant stratification, and environmental exposure studies, The University of California, San Diego, said in a statement.

"You can imagine a scenario where a crime scene investigator comes across a personal object — like a phone, pen or key — without fingerprints or DNA, or with prints or DNA not found in the database," Pieter Dorrestein, the lead author of the study said in the university's statement.

"So we thought — what if we take advantage of left-behind skin chemistry to tell us what kind of lifestyle this person has? … All of these chemical traces on our bodies can transfer to objects. So we realized we could probably come up with a profile of a person's lifestyle based on chemistries we can detect on objects they frequently use."

Researchers examined 39 adult volunteers and their smartphones, collecting about 500 samples from swabs, stated the university. Using what is called a mass spectrometry technique, researchers detected molecules and compared them to reference structures in the Global Natural Products Social Molecular Networking database.

"By analyzing the molecules they've left behind on their phones, we could tell if a person is likely female, uses high-end cosmetics, dyes her hair, drinks coffee, prefers beer over wine, likes spicy food, is being treated for depression, wears sunscreen and bug spray — and therefore likely spends a lot of time outdoors — all kinds of things," Amina Bouslimani, an assistant project scientist in Dorrestein's lab, told the university.

According to the university, Dorrestein and Bouslimani have started expanding the study with 80 more people using samples from other personal items like wallets and keys.

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In a smartphone germ study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, said they can reconstruct the user's lifestyle, from diet, to health status, use of hygiene products, and even places he or she have visited.
smartphone, germ, study, lifestyle
467
2016-55-16
Wednesday, 16 Nov 2016 10:55 AM
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