Apple has released more details about the ‘Touch ID’ fingerprint scanner integrated into the iPhone 5S.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal’s ‘Digits’ tech blog, an Apple spokesman reiterated previous statements that fingerprint images wouldn’t be stored on the phone, reassuring those who had expressed privacy fears.
What the 5S will store is encrypted “fingerprint data”, locked in the phone’s processor. The data will be used to unlock the phone and make iTunes, iBooks and App Store purchases.
The method should mean that a user’s actual fingerprint shouldn’t be accessible, even if a hacker were to access the processor’s data.
Again reassuring some fears, Apple also told Digits that third-party apps were not currently allowed to use the fingerprint scanner.
The scanner must also be backed up by a passcode, which must be used to unlock the phone if it’s rebooted or hasn’t been unlocked in 48 hours. Apple said that the move was to deter hackers from taking their time to figure out how to bypass the scanner.
Touch ID is an improvement upon existing laptop fingerprint scanners, said the spokesman, but added that customers shouldn’t expect the scanner to be completely perfect.
Testers of the device have found that fingers covered in sweat, sun cream or other liquids have sometimes failed to work, and that scarred fingers can be hard to read.
In most cases, however, another finger can just be used instead.