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. Many people just don’t get how Touch ID it works, and there’s a lot of misinformation out there on this topic. Americans are concerned about privacy issues in technology all the sudden now that whole NSA thing is blowing up. If you take off your partisan hats for a second, I think you’ll agree there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with asking Apple to clear up the privacy implications of Touch ID.

    In the end, this is just going to be an opportunity for Apple to tout how secure Touch ID is.

  2. Al is using the same technique that “journalists” use to get web hits – say anything but put “Apple” in the headline.
    So, he writes these clueless letters to Apple asking questions and pretends to care about your privacy. He is after all “Chair” of the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law in much the same way that Michele Bachmann was the on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The oxymorons abound!
    We have yet to see his letter about how explaining why he contributed to the greatest privacy violations in US history. (Voting for the laws that enabled it).
    Nope, instead, Al just wants some media attention.

  3. I just wrote Senator Franken an email and have included a link for others as well:

    Senator Franken,

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/09/20/al-franken-is-worried-the-new-iphone-fingerprint-scanner-might-be-a-privacy-menace/

    In regards to the following article stating your demands over Apple’s use of Touch ID I would like to direct you to this video that was posted on June 10, 2013: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJkmc8-eyvE

    For months this video has been available on Apple’s website at http://www.apple.com/iphone-5s/videos/#video-touch as well as numerous additional tech and news sites on the internet.

    I do understand that members of congress occasionally are too busy to research topics and require the assistance of others. This should address all of the concerns that you had regarding the technology in the event you do not receive a response from Apple CEO Tim Cook.

    If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me at this email address. I lead a busy lifestyle but due to the fact that I am not in charge of overseeing the largest tech company in the world I have the luxury to share my knowledge regarding new technologies.

    If for some reason you had trouble loading data from apple.com or any other site on the internet then feel free to contact me and I can send you screenshots through email, or physical printouts through the US mail system.

    If this was an oversight on your behalf (which happens to the best of us) then I strongly encourage some stress reduction techniques which you can get from a medical professional or printouts in the mail from me. Stress reduction brings many benefits including increased mental alertness which helps with focus. Increased focus could potentially help you focus on concerns from your constituents instead of solely relying on specials interests. This in turn could help address you and all of congress rise above your record low approval ratings.

    As your question to Apple seems rudimentary, I am led to believe that digital security is a topic which is new to you. In addition to missing Apple’s statements published months ago, you may have also missed other recent developments concerning security. It has been discovered that the NSA (National Security Agency) has violated a majority of American’s freedoms by circumventing measures designed to protect users’ identities. More information on the NSA is available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Security_Agency Please note that this is hosted on wikipedia, a site which many internet ‘newbies’ (which I am assuming includes yourself) often cite without verifying sources listed at the bottom of the page.

    Please let me know if you have any questions regarding this information. As stated above, I am busy but you have a much better chance of receiving a reply from myself than from Apple CEO Tim Cook.

  4. From the linked article:
    “Another important question is whether Apple considers fingerprint data to be the contents of communication or a subscriber identity under the Stored Communications Act. This is particularly important because content data requires a warrant to be released to law enforcement, but a subscriber ID or number only needs a subpoena. Similarly, Franken asks if Apple considers fingerprint data to be a “tangible thing” as defined in the Patriot Act, or subscriber information that they could be compelled to share by a National Security Letter.

    While some of the answers to the system process questions seem to be implied by what we know about Touch ID so far, responding to Franken’s letter will put Apple on the record on many of the most pressing questions about the technology. ”

    I really can’t see why anybody would object to these questions, unless you are an employee of an advertising firm or the NSA.

  5. Our parliament of whores can’t bother themselves to attend to the business of governance, and can’t be bothered to stop the onslaught of an open air experiment conducted by Monsanto and their ilk, or to slow the clearcutting of our national forests, but somehow these bozos have time to harrass Apple. Sickening. And yet we the people keep sending these morons back to do ever more damage. With maybe 5 exceptions, our government is a major FAIL!

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