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Apple adopts hands-off approach to iPhone fingerprint scanner

Warwick Ashford

The fingerprint sensor built into the newly unveiled iPhone 5S could mean the end of passwords or personal ID codes, but Apple is keeping developers at arm’s length for the time being.

While the technology debuted on the iPhone 5S could revolutionise smartphone security, Apple has no plans to allow the Touch ID sensor to be used for more than unlocking phones or verifying iTunes purchases, say US reports.

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Apple senior vice-president Phil Schiller confirmed to AllThingsD that developers will not get access to use a fingerprint as a means of authentication.

Schiller also declined to say if or when that might change to open up new ways to use the biometric capability in iPhone apps.

Apple chief Tim Cook indicated that Apple may look for other uses for the sensor first, before opening it up to the wider developer community.

Asked whether Apple might expand its own use of the fingerprint reader over time, Cook said: “You can probably imagine a lot of uses.”

Initially, all the Touch ID button will mean is that iPhone 5S users will no longer have to remember or enter a passcode to unlock their phones or make purchases on iTunes.

But it does represent another step in the direction of improving security on smartphones. This has become a growing concern as the devices become common ways to access data in the enterprise.

Given the history of fingerprint scanners on laptops and successful attempts by security researchers to by-pass such systems, Apple’s is likely to wait until the technology is proven and widely accepted before opening it up to the wider developer community.

If successful, Apple’s Touch ID is likely to give greater momentum to move away from passwords to biometric user identifiers for mobile devices.


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