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Apple : Fingered


UPDATE: Apple’s fingerprint technology took all of two days to hack. Still feel safe?

Today’s launch of iOS7 sees Apple implement a number of marked improvements to what was becoming a frankly dated and, at times, unhelpful user-interface. Acutely aware of the iPhone’s relatively diminutive screen; Apple have made a bold and successful attempt at maximising real-estate – literally and perceptually – and released an OS that feels fresher and more intuitive than ever before. Kudos.

Indeed, a colleague of mine (an ardent Apple-fanatic) proudly demonstrated the new hardware-short-cut menu this morning and of how pleased he was to be able to switch Wi-Fi and 3G on-and-off with such ease. He was a little less happy when I reminded him that my Android phone had been affording me the very same freedoms for a few years – but love, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.

So whilst there’s no denying Apple’s ability to lead, evolve and adapt in a fiercely competitive market, the headline hardware feature for the upcoming iPhone 5S leaves me more than a little concerned.

Let’s just remind ourselves of the post-Snowden world that we live in, shall we?

Hero, villain or just ill-advised? Edward Snowden has certainly made his mark on all of us.

Hero, villain or just plain ill-advised? Whatever your feelings on the man, Edward Snowden’s actions will be felt for decades to come.

It’s now clear that the NSA have been happily scooping-up exabytes of personal information – essentially at will – for some considerable amount of time. You’d think that this would be illegal, but when the NSA’s sponsors create the laws that govern it, it’s pretty easy to see how goalposts could be moved to accommodate such deeply questionable and disturbing methods of “protecting national interests”. It was arguably naive of us all to think that this whole-scale hoovering of sensitive data wasn’t going on – but even nation states appear to be genuinely shocked at the scale and depth of the operation, with a number of Heads of State putting pressure on Obama to explain the NSA’s actions.

Like that’s going to happen.

So, ask yourself this: in a world where American corporations are required by law to submit themselves to all manner of back-door network intrusions by the NSA, would you really want to go out and buy a device that makes a big noise about gathering your biometric data?

The Patriot Act: an interesting play on words ...

The Patriot Act: an interesting play on words …

Apple have stated that their (admittedly impressive) fingerprint-recognition technology will only store data on the handset itself and not transmit anything back to Apple’s central servers. I call horse-shit on that. This is the same firm that ‘accidentally’ monitored the movements of thousands of citizens via their iPhones and the same firm that wilfully exploits slave-labour in the Far East before shipping its products at frankly insane prices.

Even if the iPhone’s fingerprint readings are only stored as encrypted data on a specific handset, there’s nothing to stop a nation state someone from hacking the device to retrieve said data. Gambling with one of the most sensitive, personal and permanent pieces of data that you will ever hold – just to save a few seconds when unlocking your phone or buying an app – seems like complete lunacy to me.

So don’t say I didn’t warn you, punk.

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Husband. Parent. Gamer. Go figure.

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