Apple isn’t just looking to keep their iPhone and iPod devices secure from the ever-present threat of users looking to jailbreak their smartphone/media player, the Cupertino, CA.-based tech company is apparently considering using biometric heartbeat sensors to verify authorized users. We recently mentioned that a newly uncovered patent application hinted at Apple’s plans to lock down or remote wipe data on iPhones that have been deemed jailbroken or unlocked. That, in itself, was a bit disturbing, but we’re not sure how to feel about a future iPhone being able to identify users by heartbeat, voice, or facial recognition.
On the one hand, the technology is impressive. We first saw Apple’s patent application on embedded biometric sensors about a year ago. The idea that a smartphone could use integrated sensors to detect users via heartbeat patterns, voice patterns, and pictures of users’ faces is like sweet, sweet music to a gadget geek’s ears. Automatic biometric identification sounds like a geek’s dream come true. In fact, this kind of technology solves one of the initial obstacles to artificial intelligence – the ability to accurately identify people.
Unfortunately, there are privacy concerns at stake here. Worse yet, there’s the unsettling potential that your iPhone could turn snitch on your biometric readings, should you decide to jailbreak your phone. Think about it. Upon detecting that you’re running a jailbroken or unlocked iPhone, this technology could very well report to Apple your unique biometric signature for future reference. From that point on, you could be tagged in some Apple customer service computer as a person to scrutinize when it comes time for warranty repairs or other customer service matters.
On the upside, it sure would be nice to know that your wayward iPhone was capable of detecting an unauthorized user and alerting authorities (and yourself, of course) that it is in the process of being “misappropriated” – all before you even realized that the handset is no longer in your pocket or purse. Apple’s Find My iPhone feature in its MobileMe service does a great job of tracking the phone and wiping all data (should it come to that), but that’s only possible if you A) know that your phone is missing and B) have a computer nearby to lock/wipe the handset.
The downside, of course, is being denied for customer service on your device because Apple knows that your unique biometric signature has been associated with a jailbroken, unlocked, or otherwise hacked iPhone. That’s not a pleasant thought – especially because Apple customer service is widely considered to be at the top of its game.
In either case, we’re not going to be able to stop the mobile industry’s march towards higher technology and more gadget wizardry as time goes on, so we might as well get used to new tech that makes us feel a bit uncomfortable.
What say you? Would you be inclined to buy a phone that included biometric security and technology that would be able to detect an unauthorized user?