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Apple’s Fingerprint Feature and Pleading the Fifth

BIOMETRICS

September 13, 2013

The Wall Street Journal delves further into the inner workings of Apple’s new iPhone fingerprint sensor. As was previously reported, the phone will not store actual fingerprints but rather “fingerprint data.” The stored data is also encrypted. Meanwhile, in a column for Wired, privacy expert Marcia Hofmann argues that substituting biometric authentication for passwords could create legal issues, particularly with regard to the Fifth Amendment. Being required to share a password—a communication—is a “testimonial” because individuals are sharing the contents of their minds. However, “if we move toward authentication systems based solely on physical tokens or biometrics—things we have or things we are, rather than things we remember—the government could demand that we produce them without implicating anything we know,” Hofmann writes, “Which would make it less likely that a valid privilege against self-incrimination would apply.”
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