IBM has a new patent for a program that watches your every move on a device, the company has announced. The patent is for techniques to recognize people by the way they click, swipe and navigate on websites.
Do you tend go straight to a certain tab when you first visit PopSci.com? Do you ever navigate using your arrow keys? (Who does this?) If the app notices that a person, while signed into his account, isn’t navigating like usual, it can do something about it. For example, it could ask for him to answer security questions. This level of security might not be so crucial for Popular Science, but it’s attractive for banking and shopping online. An app based on these techniques could even recognize and repel spambots, the patent suggests.
Ideas for apps like this have been floating around for at least two decades. Several research groups have investigated whether computer programs are able to identify people by the way they swipe and touch their devices. Before the era of touchscreens, researchers tried to determine if they could continuously check in on the identity of people using computers by monitoring the way they type. Here’s a paper about that, dated 1995.
Why haven’t these apps caught on in the devices you use and sites you visit? All security programs have to perform a careful balancing act. They have to be secure enough that they don’t let in nefarious characters, while not being so choosy they annoys legitimate users. It’s a difficult balance to strike for a program that has to study complex behaviors like clicking.