Fingerprints off iPhone 5s
The iPhone, a coveted object of desire among the image-conscious masses, and the catalyst which revolutionized the smartphone industry, looks to revolutionize the market yet again. Every iPhone reincarnation has been marked by months of hyped anticipation, followed by long lines of Apple devotees determined to be the first to get their hands on the latest model.
However, the release of the iPhone 5s has been met with some negativity this year, concerning one of the phone's newest features — a fingerprint scanner — which has incited public outcry and impassioned Internet debates.
The introduction of the scanner comes only months after the NSA data-mining scandal, which has made many Americans rethink issues concerning technological privacy.
According to Reuters' official website, the fingerprint scanner utilizes state-of-the-art biometric technology, and removes the hassle of entering a password to unlock the phone. It is also used as a verification tool for buying music or applications from the iTunes and app stores.
An iPhone 5s user would simply need to tap their finger against the home button to access their phone or purchase items.
Despite the nerds out there crying doomsday, some analysts believe the fingerprint scanner will increase user security.
According to Apple's official website, 50 percent of smartphone users do not set up a password for their phones.
The question is, should we trust Apple to safe-keep a biological stamp of our identity? Are the concerns justified, or are they just an embodiment of the paranoia that is rampant in our current sociopolitical climate?
The fingerprint data recorded by the scanner would only be stored on the phone, and it would not be transmitted to a database, eliminating concerns regarding information privacy, and identity theft, according to Apple.
However, Howard Stahl, computer science professor at Santa Monica College, does not agree.
"I wouldn't do it," he said. "I would not give them my fingerprint. If a hacker was to get to the location of the phone where the fingerprints are saved, they are able to put their fingerprints there instead of yours, and now you have been locked out of your phone."
Too many risks come with the fingerprint feature that Apple introduced in their new models.
"There are a lot of concerns regarding that fingerprint," Stahl said. "People might want to think carefully before they give Apple their fingerprint because there is no way to take it back.”
The fingerprint scanner has never been incorporated into a cellphone before, Stahl warned. There may be certain loopholes and initial hiccups that could be risky for a user's privacy and security.
Nevertheless, SMC students seem nonchalant and unfazed by the potential virtual threats that the iPhone 5s may present. Many of them think the convenience and the coolness factor outweigh the cost of a security breach.
"I don't think it's unsafe; I don't mind," said David Javidzid, an SMC philosophy major.
I was initially in favor of the fingerprint scanner when I first heard of it because I thought it sounded nifty, reminiscent of those high-tech gadgets from science fiction movies.
Fantasy and conspiracy theories aside, Apple claims that fingerprints recorded by the scanner are perfectly safe due to the fact that they are stored locally on the phone and not saved in a database.
The fingerprint scanner is still a largely unexplored territory, and when you factor in loopholes, glitches and hackers into the equation, the iPhone 5s just is not worth the danger.
"It is a new feature, so some of it might just be rumors or innuendos, but hopefully it will get more clear once people get used to how it works, the way it works, how they are securing it, and whether it is really as secure as they say,” said Stahl.
I normally cannot wait to get my hands on the latest iPhone, but since Apple is insistent on the fingerprint scanner, I will be keeping my hands (and fingerprints) away from the iPhone 5s.