Apple has recently filed another patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This patent deals with a hidden feature that promises to enhance the security on your iPhone.
The patent is for a “method of capturing biometric information for identifying unauthorised users”. In other words, Apple is trying to make your iPhone a lot safer. It hopes to do so by capturing fingerprints and photos of anyone who tries to steal your iPhone.
iPhones currently have a lock-down system already in place. If you’re using the Touch ID to unlock your phone, you know that you’re only given five chances to provide the correct touch identification. Failing which, the phone automatically shifts to a passcode/alphanumeric password. Further failure to provide the correct password can lock and potentially wipe your data (depending on your Find My iPhone settings).
This is where the new Apple patent comes into play. If you enter wrong passwords multiple times, the phone will assume that it has been stolen, and the defence mechanism will kick in. This new security system will start collecting biometric information — such as fingerprints and photos — of whoever is handling the phone. So that the thief can be identified later on.
That’s not it, though. Apple is taking the term “biometric information” to be more than just fingerprints and photos. They also include other information such as “time stamps, device location, speed, air pressure, audio data and more, all collected and logged as background operations.”
Also, the security system runs deeper than merely storing information. The patent hints that the stolen devices might be able to run a uplink of the information to remote servers to look for fingerprint and facial recognition matches. Moreover, the system might be able to run a pattern recognition on keystrokes that to determine what information the perp was trying to access!
Although it’s great to see Apple going above and beyond its way to ensure the security of our devices, the legal experts are not so favourable to this new tech. The law about data and privacy is still hazy at best and with newer technologies of collecting and using data springing up each day, the execution of the law can potentially become even more fragile. So as of now, Apple is treading on a thin legal line, where’s it not certain if Apple is doing anything unethical.
What’s certain beyond doubt, though, is that big data analytics and machine learning are already overtaking our lives quite comprehensively. The Terminator doesn’t seem all that much of a science fiction now, does it?