As you all know Apple revealed their latest iPhone 5S yesterday to eagerly awaiting fans. For most the event was a big let down due to high prices for the new devices and generally just not a whole lot of new stuff.
However one new feature Apple did show off was Touch ID which allows the 5S to scan your finger print allowing you to unlock your device via your finger print. This is a brilliant, exciting yet potentially risky feature.
Apple say that they do not store your biometric information on their servers. What happens I surmise is that like most biometric systems that scan finger prints the system uses algorithms to create a template of your finger. This on traditional systems is then hashed or encoded which produces a unique hash code for said template and it is this code that is stored. When you then try to unlock your device after the initial setup your print is scanned, and the new scan is again hashed and this number is verified against the original hashed number.
Hash encoding like this is very difficult to decrypt but not impossible and even I have had success as a novice using some PHP scripting, however I’m sure my hash encryption is nothing like Apple’s. This being said, and again assuming the visual print of your finger is not on an Apple server then it should be safe from the eyes of government agencies. However, even if only the hash code was stored on Apple’s servers, if Apple get a request by lets say the NSA then it is just a simple look from the server to your device and your details may be visible.
All of the above aside, the great benefits that may come from Touch ID is apps that can now truly measure things like body fat, hearth rate, blood pressure due to the sub-dermal scanning. Think of the potential market for medical devices, next generation iPads featuring Touch ID, what about Iris Recognition via front facing cameras.
There is a huge market here for Pharma and Security companies potentially, but remember with great power like this comes great responsibility and great risks.