Privacy and technology maintain a tenuous relationship, and the balance between convenient features and personal security is always one worth keeping in mind as users make the most of their devices' capabilities. To that end, Chainfire has released a new proof of concept app that aims to give users at least some peace of mind when it comes to the - for lack of a better term - trackability of their devices, specifically related to Wi-Fi.
As Chainfire explains in a post to Google+, our phones (and other devices) broadcast information about our location, movement, and habits that can be picked up on not just by well-intentioned business owners looking to offer a promotion, but by "crooks, the government, and other shady individuals" who may pair location or network information with other personal info for tracking purposes.
Enter Pry-Fi. The app, which requires root privileges and is for now classified as a proof of concept, is aimed at offering users a solution to potential privacy problems that avoids shutting off your phone's Wi-Fi features. This means you can roam comfortably, still able to automatically connect to trusted networks and enjoy location-aware apps. In Chainfire's own words:
Pry-Fi will prevent your device from announcing all the networks it knows to the outside world, but it will still allow background scanning and automatically connecting to Wi-Fi networks. While you are not connected to a Wi-Fi network, the MAC address will constantly be pseudo-randomized, following a pattern that still makes the trackers think you are a real person, but they will not encounter your MAC address again. This will slowly poison their tracking database with useless information.
Chainfire notes that, when you do connect to a Wi-Fi network, your MAC address will continue to be randomized, and the same address will not be used the next time you connect.
With Pry-Fi, Chainfire may not be providing a solution to a problem that already exists, but instead proposing a way to ensure that potentially malicious tracking doesn't become viable, by muddying potential pools of data. Those who would track may say that they would never use the information maliciously, but as Chainfire notes "we all know that if something can be abused, ultimately it will be." Whether or not you subscribe to this underlying premise, Pry-Fi is a compelling concept, and it will be interesting to see how the tool continues to develop.
Chainfire emphasizes that the app is currently a proof of concept, and its continued development - and indeed existence - is reliant on interest, functionality, and whether the tool remains possible in future Android releases. Those interested can grab the app below. Chainfire encourages bug reports to be contributed to the XDA thread found here.
Source: Chainfire (Google+)