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  • Senator Sends Letter to Cook Regarding Touch ID Privacy Concerns


    Senator Al Franken (D-MN) recently sent a letter to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, expressing concern over the new Touch ID fingerprint sensor built into the iPhone 5S, which went on sale earlier today. In the letter (PDF), the Senator who is also the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, says he is an iPhone owner and is concerned about the use of fingerprints to unlock the device. He mentions the following in his letter regarding the matter:

    It's clear to me that Apple has worked hard to secure this technology and implement it responsibly. The iPhone 5S reportedly stores fingerprint data locally "on the chip" and in an encrypted format. It also blocks third-party apps from accessing Touch ID. Yet important questions remain about how this technology works, Apple's future plans for this technology, and the legal protections that Apple will afford it. I should add that regardless of how carefully Apple implements fingerprint technology, this decision will surely pave the way for its peers and smaller competitors to adopt biometric technology, with varying protections for privacy.
    In his letter, Franken goes on to ask twelve separate questions of Cook, four of which include the following:

    • If it's possible to convert locally-stored fingerprint data into a format that can be used by third parties.
    • If it's possible to extract and obtain fingerprint data from an iPhone 5s either remotely or with physical access to the device.
    • What diagnostic information the iPhone 5s sends to Apple about the Touch ID system.
    • Whether Apple considers fingerprint data to be the "subscriber information" or "electronic communication transactional records", the "contents" of communications, customer or subscriber records, or a "subscriber number or identity" as defined in the Stored Communications Act, or a "tangible thing" as defined in the USA PATRIOT Act.

    The other group of questions relates to when and if Apple could be required to disclose fingerprint information to US Government law enforcement agencies. Apple for its part has posted an extensive knowledge base article about the security benefits of the Touch ID system, though it only discloses broad details about how the iPhone 5S stores fingerprint data, but nevertheless, it may answer some of the questions that Senator Franken had asked:

    Touch ID does not store any images of your fingerprint. It stores only a mathematical representation of your fingerprint. It isn't possible for your actual fingerprint image to be reverse-engineered from this mathematical representation. iPhone 5s also includes a new advanced security architecture called the Secure Enclave within the A7 chip, which was developed to protect passcode and fingerprint data. Fingerprint data is encrypted and protected with a key available only to the Secure Enclave. Fingerprint data is used only by the Secure Enclave to verify that your fingerprint matches the enrolled fingerprint data. The Secure Enclave is walled off from the rest of A7 and as well as the rest of iOS. Therefore, your fingerprint data is never accessed by iOS or other apps, never stored on Apple servers, and never backed up to iCloud or anywhere else. Only Touch ID uses it and it can't be used to match against other fingerprint databases.
    The Senator gave Apple thirty days to answer the questions and although it isn’t a subpoena (meaning Apple isn’t required to respond), the company is likely to cooperate. This isn’t the first time that Senator Franken has interacted with Apple either – in 2011, he asked both Apple and Google to require clear privacy policies for apps sold in their app stores. He also introduced a bill to help protect customer location data as well.

    Source: Apple (Support), Franken (Press Release) (Letter PDF)
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Senator Sends Letter to Cook Regarding Touch ID Privacy Concerns started by Akshay Masand View original post
    Comments 37 Comments
    1. plcrules's Avatar
      plcrules -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ambi_Valence View Post
      Just remember, Apple are late to the party with mobile devices incorporating fingerprint sensors. Hell my 4 year old, (I think), HP laptop has it. Did that idiot send them a letter?
      did you know about the NSA 4 years ago? yaa didnt think so
      and this fingerprint scanner is much different than the one on your hp im sure you need to swipe your finger on that one the iphone you simply place your finger on the sensor and thats it
    1. flash66's Avatar
      flash66 -
      Quote Originally Posted by budsalinger View Post
      No. He is concerned with his reputation of being concerned about our privacy and personal security.
      Or concerned his wife may find out he's bopping his secretary using a fingerprint from his scotch glass after he passes out.
    1. yeti's Avatar
      yeti -
      Quote Originally Posted by plcrules View Post
      did you know about the NSA 4 years ago? yaa didnt think so
      and this fingerprint scanner is much different than the one on your hp im sure you need to swipe your finger on that one the iphone you simply place your finger on the sensor and thats it
      And that's it, all hell breaks loose, your bank balance is zero, your credit cards are all maxed out, your wife leaves you, and your dog, well, he's still yours. There's a lot more to worry about than this (like your SS#, birthdate, and zip code). And if you don't like it, don't buy it or use it. Your choice, just quit whinning.
    1. fleurya's Avatar
      fleurya -
      I Like Franken, but this is just some sensationalist headline grabbing. I agree that Apple should be held accountable, but I'm not concerned in this case. Apple as specifically made this a locally-stored hardware issue, not on their servers. So if the NSA does come knocking Apple just has to say, "we don't have access, sorry." It's kind of brilliant really!

      Quote Originally Posted by Ambi_Valence View Post
      Just remember, Apple are late to the party with mobile devices incorporating fingerprint sensors. Hell my 4 year old, (I think), HP laptop has it. Did that idiot send them a letter?
      Agreed! this is why I think it's just a headline grabber. My Lenovo Thinkpad has a fingerprint reader, and there are millions of laptops that have them. Many more than there are, or probably will be iPhone 5S models. So why is he getting all righteous over this case?
    1. romeo_herman's Avatar
      romeo_herman -
      I will created my touch ID using midle finger...yeah.
    1. TheInformer's Avatar
      TheInformer -
      I'd like Senator Franken to first explain the voting irregularities that got him elected.
    1. slim.jim's Avatar
      slim.jim -
      Quote Originally Posted by plcrules View Post
      did you know about the NSA 4 years ago? yaa didnt think so
      and this fingerprint scanner is much different than the one on your hp im sure you need to swipe your finger on that one the iphone you simply place your finger on the sensor and thats it
      Yea I knew about the NSA 4 yrs ago. Knew about them 20yrs ago, the Headquarters is 15mins from my house.
    1. steve-z17's Avatar
      steve-z17 -
      Why are people so concerned about this fingerprint data stuff? If someone really wanted your fingerprint they could easily get from your car door or door knob or anything you touch throughout the day! It's not like the person can go out and spend money using your fingerprint..or steal your identity. People give their fingerprints to companies all the time! The iPhone 5s is probably more secure at storing your fingerprint then some other places, I'm sure.
    1. iH85CH001's Avatar
      iH85CH001 -
      Quote Originally Posted by raxal View Post
      I am keeping my Iphone 5, no fingerprint crap scanner installed here. Now with iOS 7 intalled , my Iphone 5 look like a crap! Apple went back with this new iOS7 thing.
      If you really hate ios 7 as much as me, you can downgrade still... hurry though... you never know when they're gonna stop signing ios 6.1.4... all you have to do is download the ipsw for your device, and hold shift or option and click restore in itunes, select your downloaded ipsw, and wait. this will downgrade and restore your device to 6.1.4.
    1. lungho's Avatar
      lungho -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lohand View Post
      Totally Agree! Drawing a Map of the US free-hand is also badassery! Sayin...
      Yes, I agree. The mentally ill can do some amazing things.
    1. slim.jim's Avatar
      slim.jim -
      There are too many self important tin foil hat wearers. There's a 99.9999% chance that the government doesn't give a **** about your finger prints. Just imagine all the data the could be transmitted if this were on an android device by some side loaded app.
    1. Carvensno's Avatar
      Carvensno -
      Quote Originally Posted by slim.jim View Post
      There are too many self important tin foil hat wearers. There's a 99.9999% chance that the government doesn't give a **** about your finger prints. Just imagine all the data the could be transmitted if this were on an android device by some side loaded app.
      Not to mention that if the government was interested in you? you wouldn't know about it anyways until they arrest you and surprise you with all the other intel they have on you beside a finger print. As others have said also, there is other easier way to get your finger prints than trying to hack a iPhone CPU for the encrypted data. Door knobs, glass/cups, windows, and etc... Just remember government always get 1st crack at proto type and Hi-Tech electronics before the average Joe does!
    1. The Amazing Atheist's Avatar
      The Amazing Atheist -
      Oh no, Apple is going to steal everyone´s fingerprints and send them to the NSA.



      Get real.
    1. romeo_herman's Avatar
      romeo_herman -
      Quote Originally Posted by THE GLOBE AND MAIL View Post
      Hackers fool fingerprint scanner on sold-out iPhone 5S:A group of German hackers claimed to have found a way around the iPhone fingerprint scanner on Sunday, just two days after Apple Inc. launched the technology that it promises will better protect devices from criminals and snoopers seeking access.

      Two prominent iPhone security experts told Reuters that they believed the German group, known as the Chaos Computing Club, or CCC, had succeeded in defeating Apple’s Touch ID, though they had not personally replicated the work.
      No concerned about privacy and personal security...
    1. iZangetsu's Avatar
      iZangetsu -
      You know I just wonder why no one seems to have linked "RF Scanner" tech of the touch ID with the "RFID Implant Chip" …Sheeple
    1. twigwonderkid's Avatar
      twigwonderkid -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ambi_Valence View Post
      Just remember, Apple are late to the party with mobile devices incorporating fingerprint sensors. Hell my 4 year old, (I think), HP laptop has it. Did that idiot send them a letter?
      Yes - your right but it didn't work.