Monday, May 2, 2016

Fingerprints less secure than PIN in the court of law?

Using our fingers to unlock our smartphones may be faster, but it can also be less secure should you want to keep away your data from law enforcement.

The "problem" with biometric authentication is that, unlike something you might have inside your head, is that you be compelled to physically unlock a device should you be ordered to by a courf of law, just like it happened now. This was something that was already discussed when fingerprint scanners started showing up on smartphones, and is once again dividing opinions regarding the interpretation of the 5th amendment.

Should a judge ask you something that you don't want to answer - like a PIN code or password to access your smartphone - you can use the 5th; but if you're using a fingerprint to unlock your device, then you have no way out of it; although some argue that the same rules should apply.

Putting it in more physical terms, is the equivalent of the  police being able to physically force you to put your finger on the sensor... but have no way to force you to say a PIN (unless resorting to methods we better hope they wouldn't use!)

The end result is that in the future we may see added security measures to prevent such forms of (potential) abuse; like requesting a PIN on the first unlock of the day even if you have a valid fingerprint to unlock or specify how long you can use your fingerprints for until you're requested the PIN validation code. (For instance, should you restart your iPhone or leave it locked for 48h, it already requests a PIN to prove you're you.)

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