One of the New iPhone's Coolest Features May Make Some Nervous

This Just In 7

finger printsThe new iPhone 5S has an interesting new feature - a built-in fingerprint reader that can unlock your phone without a passcode. You simply place your finger on a special sensor and it can "read" your fingerprint without having to type in your unlock code.

The feature, called Touch ID, also lets you purchase items from the App Store and iTunes content without typing in a password. It is probably the biggest change in the the new iPhone and really leads to some interesting questions, namely "Will Apple ever see my fingerprints?"

The system uses a special camera to scan almost all of your fingerprint. Then, when you place your finger on the home button, it scans the skin of your finger and decides if you are who you claim your are.

So does Apple send your fingerprints to the NSA or even its own servers? According to the engineers who built the system, your fingerprint is read and then converted into a specific code. This code doesn't represent your fingerprint at all but instead acts as a secret key that can only be read by your own phone. In short, the reader doesn't recreate an "image" of your fingerprint any more than a very complex password would. Apple never sees the image and neither does anyone else.

The security system comes from AuthenTec, a company Apple acquired in 2012. This technology is unusual in that it doesn't require you to slide your finger across a sensor. Instead, it can read fingerprints from any angle. More important, this technology includes something called the Secure Enclave, a part of the iPhone that is completely corralled off from access. When you place your finger on the sensor, it reads it, converts it to a code, and then asks the Secure Enclave if everything is kosher. If things check out, you're in. Remember: at no time is your fingerprint sent to Apple. This is all done internally.

What does this mean for the future? It means you can use your iPhone to make secure payments to vendors and even authenticate with email and social media accounts. This, in short, gets rid of passwords in a very secure way, pulling us all out of the benighted era of depending on "thisismypassword99!!!" as our only line of defense against hackers.

It's so secure that hackers are trying hard to break it and can't. In short, it's a pretty cool addition to an already cool device.

Do you like this idea?


Image via Ishan Manjrekar /Flickr

communication, cell phone, iphone, apple


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Coles... Coles_mom

This stuff doesn't make sense to me. I don't care if Apple, the NSA, FBI, CIA, or my local police department want my fingerprints....I haven't and will not do anything illegal, so who cares?!? They can have it. Same goes for all the phone tapping stuff. Let em' listen!!! They'll hear me telling my mom my son has a runny nose and my husband to pick milk up on the way home. Only people with something to hide should be fearful.

mbnic... mbnich0269

What if you share your phone with other family members...? We do. Sounds like a pain to me

belon... belongs2Jesus

has nothin to do bout whether you do anything wrong CM has to do with privacy. And American's privacy being breeched by the very people we pay to protect us. It is wrong and needs to stop. 

jkp-buff jkp-buff

Coles Mom- Think of it this way: you may not care if apple, the nsa, fbi, cia, police or any of the those organizations currently have all this information about you because you haven't done anything wrong and have nothing to hide from our current government. But once the information is out there, once the systems are in place to track people to that level, in the future that information and those systems can be used by future governments who could be every bit as bad as the Nazi's.

The recent scandal with the IRS targeting certain political groups is one example of that happening right now. Maybe 10 or 20 years from now, they could use the phone tapping to target individuals who hold dissenting political opinions, get you fired from your job, freeze your accounts, just by a few key strokes.

You feel safe and trust your government because the founders of this country intentionally set up checks and balances and limits to government power. But the more the government overreaches it's limits (ie the warrantless searches that phone tapping represents), the less safe the government will be to its people.

Pam Hyland

Tell hackers they cant do something and theyll do it. Just because they havent yet doesnt mean it wont happen. SOme things, like the xbox for example, have been hacked just because someone said they couldnt.

nonmember avatar BostonBob

Remember, you don't HAVE to use this feature. You can still use the passcode option, or not lock the phone at all.

If you feel at all nervous, just stick with the usual options.

nonmember avatar 560ti

"It's so secure that hackers are trying hard to break it and can't."

they have done it, several times now with only some paper. just search "Iphone fingerprint bypass" or something like that

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