Originally published January 31 2015
Apple to store your fingerprints in the cloud, ripe for hackers and NSA surveillance
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) In the digital age, when governments including ours are increasingly concerned about waging the next war, in large part, via the Internet, Americans' constitutional right to privacy seems a quaint anachronism. Successive presidential administrations, as well as Congress, appear to have ceded complete control to the intelligence community when it comes to deciding not when, but if, such protections are even warranted, and all in the name of "national security."
What's worse, though, is that American technology companies appear ready, willing and able to assist in the constitutional usurpation; one such company is Apple.
According to Business Insider, the tech giant and media company is considering a new technology that would enable storage of customers' biometric data, like fingerprints, in the iCloud, ostensibly to enable "next-generation" payment methods.
A new patent application, found by Apple Insider, says "[f]inger biometric sensor data synchronization via a cloud computing device and related methods" would be stored, with one possible use being a means to authorize a "financial transaction."
"Simply put, this means Apple is considering using its cloud hosting service iCloud to store customers' fingerprints, so they can be synced to other devices when required -- such as to pay for a purchase," Business Insider reported.
All that may "be about to change"
The name of Apple's biometric verification app is Touch ID; it was first introduced, you may recall, with the iPhone 5S as a security mechanism. Users were instructed to press a finger on the home button, so they could unlock their phone for use. By doing so, the phone verified a users' identity. Also, the Touch ID app could be used to make purchases via Apple Pay.
As further noted by Business Insider:
Apple has previously emphasised the security measures used for securing Touch ID biometric data, including encrypting and storing it in a "Secure Enclave" on the A7 chip. "Other apps never access your fingerprint data," their website says. "It's never stored on Apple servers, and it's never backed up to iCloud or anywhere else."
However, if the proposed measure is implemented, all that may be about to change.
Worse, iCloud's security reputation has been tarnished already. In 2013, the intimate photos of scores of high-profile celebrities were hacked and then leaked on the Internet in a scandal known as "CelebGate." Apple's iCloud service, Business Insider notes, was identified as being the source of the photos.
Also, as reported by a number of media outlets, Apple was one of the many tech companies that cooperated with the National Security Agency's "Prism" program, which is able to access user data.
As reported by The Guardian in Britain:
The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats...
Initially, most tech companies, including Apple, denied that they cooperated with national security officials to permit snooping of their users' data. But The New York Times reported in June 2013 that officials from several tech firms, including Apple, did indeed negotiate for cooperation.
"This patent is in keeping with what we know of Apple"
What's more, the Times noted, the companies had little legal recourse:
The companies that negotiated with the government include Google, which owns YouTube; Microsoft, which owns Hotmail and Skype; Yahoo; Facebook; AOL; Apple; and Paltalk, according to one of the people briefed on the discussions. The companies were legally required to share the data under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. People briefed on the discussions spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are prohibited by law from discussing the content of FISA requests or even acknowledging their existence.
Now, Apple seems ready to make it easier for hackers -- or the government -- to continue tracking users.
Business Insider noted that it is important to point out that Apple files thousands of patents, in a bid to head off competitors, that never actually make it into products. However, "this patent is in keeping with what we know of Apple's intentions, particularly its pushing of Apple Pay," the news site reported.
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