When Apple unveiled the iPhone 5s and its built-in fingerprint scanner you could almost feel conspiracy theorists around the world gearing up for an epic battle.
There were a number of—mostly disreputable—claims around the web that Touch ID is not secure and that the information will be shared freely with the US government for the sake of surveillance. Now these privacy fears may be getting a boost from a somewhat more reliable source, Anonymous.
While US government shut itself down and put 800,000 people temporarily out of work, the hacktivist group Anonymous released a video statement with an accompanying Pastebin document claiming that there are definitive links between AuthenTec, the company that developed the iPhone 5S’s fingerprint scanner, and the US government. A series of news articles and press releases draw a strong line between Touch ID and the US government surveillance.
According to the group, which released the video shown below, Apple has worked very closely with U.S. government agencies and surveillance groups to bring Touch ID to market.
First of all, Anonymous has drawn the bonds between AuthenTec and the US government by first pointing out that the company is a spin-off of the Harris corporation. Harris pulls in $6 billion dollars of revenue yearly from US government contracts. His company “produces wireless equipment, electronic systems, and both terrestrial and spaceborne antennas for use in the government, defense, and commercial sectors,” if we can trust to Wikipedia.
But the connections between AuthenTec and the US government don’t end there. As Anonymous points out, in 2010 AuthenTec named Robert E. Grady (who served in George H. W. Bush’s White House) as the chairman of the biometrics-loving company.
Grady is currently a Managing Director at Cheyenne Capital, a $500 million private equity fund. Prior to this, he did work for AuthenTec and at other properties owned by The Carlyle Group. By the way, the Carlyle Group invested $910 million into Booz Allen – the private intelligence firm that Edward Snowden worked for.
Anyway, it wasn’t long after that AuthenTec started flirting with the idea of selling Apple its technology, but Apple just decided to buy AuthenTec outright for $356 mln. Its fingerprint technology is likely what powers Touch ID.
So it’s pretty clear that AuthenTec’s connections to government and military elites are real – and to anyone who has been following the NSA leaks of 2013.
Anonymous also unveiled a FBI document describing a plan to build a “Next Generation Identification” system that would develop databases of fingerprints as well as scars and tattoos to improve facial recognition. Among the bureau’s targets for a watch list are murderers, kidnappers, and those who harbor illegal immigrants.
Biometric security looks likely to be the next big wave in consumer tech, and naturally that means it will end up being the target of authorities.
It’s important to note that Apple has publicly stated that the fingerprints used by Touch ID are not stored on iCloud. Instead, they are held on the device’s A7 chip. Apple calls Touch ID a “secure way to access your phone.”