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Could New Technology Bring An End To Passwords?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The average computer user has 27 passwords and it can be tough to keep track of them all.

Researchers at Rutgers University are working on a solution that involves using sensors in smartphones to track our unique biometrics from the way we swipe, to the way we walk, CBS News' Brook Silva-Braga reported.

Professor Vishal Patel demonstrated the technology by asking a student to walk across campus at Rutgers University then hand his phone to another student, who walked back.

Patel said the difference in how they walk was "enough to identify who the person is walking."

"You had two different people walking in the same path but as you can see their signatures are very different," Patel said, pointing to signals picked up by the phone's accelerometer.

Researchers like Patel are trying to use biometrics to make  devices more secure with a process called "active authentication" that constantly, passively monitors the user.

The phone was also trained to recognize the unique way its owner scrolls down the screen.

So why isn't this active authentication active yet?

It could drain our batteries, or fail to work in certain settings. For example the camera can't see you in the dark and some of the methods, like tracking our pattern of life, could turn off users.

"Once you have this information you can sort of learn where the person will end up in the afternoon or at night," Patel said.

"To a lot of people this is just going to look creepy," Silva-Braga said.

"That's right, it is creepy, but it is very powerful," Patel said.

Joseph Atick  helped invent facial recognition technology 25 years ago, but today he says tracking users is so valuable to marketers that tech companies can't be trusted to self-regulate their use of biometrics.

"What guarantees me that someone isn't using my biometric data to do surveillance on me?" he asks.

Researchers believe biometric data could start replacing passwords in the next few years.

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