Swabs From Your Smartphone: Yields Tons of Information about Owners Lifestyle


Staff and Staff

showing just a few of the several types of smart phones. |Photo by Madison Schneider

This wouldn’t be the first claim proven by science that people can be traced by the prints of DNA. However, this time, the claim involves the process of examining those prints that determine a person’s habits, lifestyles, and medical conditions.

As explained in the CNBC article, researchers swabbed 39 phones for skin cells using mass spectrometry to identify each different molecule by their weight. Each of the molecules were compared with references in the database. The results included traces of medications such as skin creams, hair loss treatments, and antidepressants. There were also traces of such as citrus and caffeine. The traces found on the phones corresponded with the skin cells from the participants’ hands that were compared.

“I think that’s absolutely mind blowing that phones can trace more than just the owner’s DNA,” said high school student Jolie Saul, “I believe that phones do maintain a lot of different traces of information due to prints being left on everything people touch.”

Despite that the traces on the object can say a lot about a person, such as their gender, whether he/she uses hair dye or cosmetics, medical treatments, and whether they spend more time indoors or outdoors, people cannot be “matched” to that kind of evidence in a way such as fingerprints or DNA.

“I believe that it is a good and bad thing that people can’t be matched to that kind of evidence,” said high school student Jeanelle Courtney, “If the person can’t be matched, that means the person can remain unidentified without feeling their privacy being taken from them. However, it would be better if the person could be matched because it could provide awareness of illnesses a person has, but doesn’t know they have it.”

Though the evidence can’t be matched, it could provide clues about the person which could be used to track terrorists and determining whether a person is taking their prescribed medication.

“I strongly agree that swabbing skin cells from phones will benefit the world in the future,” said high school student Kat Underwood, “The evidence could potentially save lives of people from those who are a threat to a society, a family, and possibly a country that needs protection the most.”