U.S. Senate Democrat Al Franken demands answers from Apple CEO Tim Cook over iPhone 5s’ Touch ID

“The iPhone 5s, released Friday, has a built-in fingerprint scanner, which will function as an alternative to conventional passwords,” Andrea Peterson reports for The Washington Post. “Some privacy advocates are concerned about how Apple plans to handle this highly sensitive data. Apple says it will only store the data collected via Touch ID on the device in an encrypted format rather than in a centralized server. Apple will also block third-party apps from accessing Touch ID.”

“But Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) wants details about Apple’s plan for the data collected by the system,” Peterson reports. “Thursday he sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking some tough questions about the fingerprint system, and noting how fundamentally different biometric identifiers are from previous ID methods.”

“Franken wants to know more about the technical possibilities of Touch ID and how Apple plans to use it,” Peterson reports. “For instance, if it’s possible to convert or extract locally stored fingerprint data in a format that could be used by third parties, and whether that can be accomplished without physical access to the phone. And what diagnostic information, if any, the iPhone 5s transmits about the Touch ID system to Apple and third parties. And he wants assurances that Apple will never share the fingerprint data or the tools needed to get them with commercial third parties.”

Read more in the full article here.

Franken’s letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook is here.

MacDailyNews Note:

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

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112 Comments

      1. First’s mind is like a Stradivarius. Unfortunately, his every utterance sounds like King Kong is playing the one string left attached to the rotten old body.

        He knows not how to to use objective apolitical analysis, and he never posts any content relating in any way to the Mac.

        One might suspect he’s Rove’s butler. No, that would require at least some real-world competence. First lives in La-La land. Must be Limbaugh’s ass-wiper.

    1. He demands Apple release all the info so Android can try to catch up with apple.. he works for google just like senator Owen Brewster used to work for Juan Tripp from PanAm.

    2. Next he will summon Tim Cook to the Senate for hearings about the fingerprint scanner itself. Cant I get someone finger prints off of a glass they just drank from. Perhaps rom their home and anything else they touched. It seems to me the governments going after Apple on a new issue when the gov are the ones with the microscope up everyone backdoor.

    1. So when a member of the government actually asks the tough questions of a corporation in the interests of its citizens, that makes him an “asshole”.

      This why USAnians can’t have nice things.

        1. First, I agree with you on the fascist government part – TOTALLY.
          Did it ever occur to you that maybe Al Franken wants to put Apple in the position of being able to refuse the NSA when it comes knocking, asking how to circumvent TouchID security?
          In other words, if part of the government has forced them to never even BUILD a way to extract the data, then it should be a lot harder for another shadowy part of the government to force them to hand over that method.
          I hope Franken is on the side of privacy. What’s his history on this issue? Is he one of the bipartisan violate-our-rights crowd that consists of WAY too many politicians from both parties, or does he still believe in civil rights?

          1. If Franken had been intelligent and thoughtful in his inquiry while proving that he actually did ANY, an IOTA, of research on the subject, I’d tend to agree and have the same high hopes.

            But no. He totally screwed up his enquiries of Apple and has NOT been outspoken about the blatant and treasonous abuse of the US 4th Amendment to the US Constitution by the Bush and Obama administrations. He’s just another little Demo-dummy fit for the political zoo.

      1. Do you really think anyone in gov. does anything in the interests of it’s citizens? The whole M/O of the government is ‘of the government, by the government and for the government’. Wanking jack asses like Al Scanken could give damn about it’s citizens, especially the legal tax paying ones. So yes he’s a ‘asshole’.

      2. Politicians do things to further their own political interest. They do not do things “in the interests of citizens.”

        Tim Cook should tell Al Franken that he’ll be happy to voluntarily answer Franken’s intrusive questions as soon as the gubmint starts protecting Apple’s IP, and also stops picking winners and losers in the ebooks market.

  1. I hope Apple CEO Tim Cook tells him to FOAD. WTF? Why doesn’t Al do some of his own investigation instead of writing letters to a man who must be among the busiest in the world today?

    1. Of course he can find answers to his questions on Anandtech or various other sites, but there is certainly value in having an executive at Apple clearly answer these questions. They can still lie to you, but at least their lies are on the record. They can’t say “Oh, that was just a mistake in our PR copy” I know in the world we live in today, people feel like they are forced to choose sides, and once they have done so, they can’t like anything the other side does.. but if you are honest with yourself, I can’t see how you would be against a senator asking tough questions about something that could potentially have serious security and privacy issues.

      1. Did any of you knee jerk idiots read the letter he wrote? Or are you just reacting out of base instinct…

        Look, the bottom line is this. Apple has done an amazing. Job with touch ID, been using mine since early this morning and it’s awesome. But, if there is a way to extract this data I think we need to know about it.

        I believe that Apple, above all other tech companies, took this all into consideration and has done it the right way. But there is no harm in asking them to look for a flaw in the system, and see if there actually is one. Frankens letter is actually reasonable, for once, and I have no problem asking this question

        1. Sounded rather sensationalist to me, an approach that rarely seems to happen when companies other than Apple are involved. And surprise surprise it is being presented around the World as if Apple is actually already guilty of accessing our private information. Voices of reason are few and far between when comments are clearly phrased as if of a critical nature rather than an exploratory one.

          1. Actually, if you read the reporting, I get the feeling that the Senator is trying to build a case that the print is content and would require extra work for law enforcement to force you to give it up.

      2. All Franken the doofus would have to do is watch the keynote for the 5s’s introduction and all of the idiots questions would have been answered.

        The only thing that Franken wants from this is publicity to further his own political career.

  2. Wow, the government wants to make sure people can’t get into your phone and personal information? Really? Since when do they care…NSA seems perfectly ok with getting the data- why stop now?
    Maybe Al just needs more info on how to let the NSA get in our new phones.

    1. NSA type of snoopers stuff are there quite longer then any sort of patriot act all over the countries… since centuries, in fact.
      Nowadays, there’s only more fuzz around it. But still thinking that the governments would ever be respecting privacy is a real joke anyway.

  3. Idiot. Those questions are all answered in a video at apple.com. Besides, Apple has no responsibility to tell the government their technology secrets. Besides, pay attention to your own house, Senator.

  4. What about all the HP computers and other brands that do the same fingerprint recognition/entry? Guess we better ask the what they have been doing with them for YEARS!

  5. Why must it sound so dramatic? Could the Senator simply interact with Apple to get it the information? Really, seems more Hollywood and I know the questions are very important ones. However, since we touch our phones, the prints can be easily lifted of the glass of the devices. So, this form of theft requires only the most basic skills. Just seems overly dramatic.

    1. Except that the iPhone’s fingerprint sensor replies on scanning sub-dermal layers as well, or weren’t you paying attention. A simple fingerprint lift will just not work the way you imply.

      =:~)

      1. Yes I am aware of the sub dermal scan, scar tissue, and algorithm. However, this is a very technical trade of theft. My concern is the action of demanding instead of quietly interacting with the company. Seems the Senator is less concerned on the repercussions of how people can spin this into a point where a greater harm is done. A persons indentiy can easily be done by lower tech methods. It is done daily and can pop up again in the future. This could be a new vector, but my point is this- Why demand publicly on something he has few answers for. Should they not compile, understand, and if Apple stonewalls or is not cooperative, then demand publicly? Seems a little self serving.

      1. It’s a bad thing because the gubmint is already very intrusive. The gubmint should leave us all alone and allow us to run our own affairs. We do not need the most reprehensible people in our country looking over our shoulder. We have a Constitution to protect against such things, but it only works if you follow it.

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