Why Using Your Thumbprint To Unlock A Phone Actually Unlocks New Identity Risks

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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It turns out the newest wave of thumbprint identification and other biometric techniques put consumers in a new kind of risk.

Users can easily mitigate password hacks by simply changing passwords. The hack of a fingerprint or iris scan “can lead to a lifetime of problems,” David Meyer, vice president of products for OneLogin, said Monday to the Wall Street Journal. As Mr. Meyer points out, a person cannot “can’t change their fingerprint or facial geometry.”

Biometrics is the process of using a behavioral or physical characteristics to authenticate an individual’s identity. In the wake of lawsuits against Snapchat and Facebook for illegally collecting biometric data, Experts say consumers should be wary about the type of unique identifying information they give to corporations.

Even if a company has stringent regulations and security measures regarding biometric data, institutions like the FBI or the U.S. government can force companies to relinquish biometric data on their users. In February 2015, for example, authorities obtained a search warrant for the alleged girlfriend of an Armenian gang member and made her use her fingerprint to unlock her phone. A more popular example was the debate that flared this past spring between the FBI and Apple regarding the iPhone of the San Bernardino, in which the FBI cracked the shooter’s device without consent from the company.

Mr. Meyer offers some potential solutions to protecting such delicate personal information. He states that the key is to work alongside trained security professionals and to “assign handling of data to professionals who have experience and knowledge of compliance and security protocols to ensure biometric information is properly protected.” Meyer added that unless you are a security professional “you are probably missing something.”

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