A feature on Apple’s new iPhone 5S has renewed interest and debate about biometric scanning. The iPhone includes a fingerprint scanner called Touch ID built into the device’s Home button which can be used to unlock the phone or make iTunes purchases.
Fingerprint scanners are just one kind of technology for biometric scanning or authentication. There are also iris and retina scanners, technology that scans a body or face to identify a person, voice-recognition systems and, of course, forensic technology that can identify a person by their DNA.
The iPhone’s Touch ID feature has prompted discussions about privacy (Apple says the device won’t store or upload fingerprint data) and about whether fingerprint data is a secure way to identify a person. At least one morbid fear about the technology has been addressed: experts say that iPhone thieves can’t use severed fingers to fool Touch ID.
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