The leaking battery: A privacy analysis of the HTML5 battery status API

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Abstract

We highlight privacy risks associated with the HTML5 Battery Status API. We put special focus on its implementation in the Firefox browser. Our study shows that websites can discover the capacity of users’ batteries by exploiting the high precision readouts provided by Firefox on Linux. The capacity of the battery, as well as its level, expose a fingerprintable surface that can be used to track web users in short time intervals. Our analysis shows that the risk is much higher for old or used batteries with reduced capacities, as the battery capacity may potentially serve as a tracking identifier. The fingerprintable surface of the API could be drastically reduced without any loss in the API’s functionality by reducing the precision of the readings. We propose minor modifications to Battery Status API and its implementation in the Firefox browser to address the privacy issues presented in the study. Our bug report for Firefox was accepted and a fix is deployed.

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Olejnik, Ł., Acar, G., Castelluccia, C., & Diaz, C. (2016). The leaking battery: A privacy analysis of the HTML5 battery status API. In Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics) (Vol. 9481, pp. 254–263). Springer Verlag. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-29883-2_18

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