Franken fears phone fingerprint technology

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is worried that new technology allowing smart phones to recognize a user based on their fingerprint could allow peope’s identities to be stolen.

In a letter to the heads of Samsung on Tuesday, the senator wrote that the feature in the company’s Galaxy S5 phone “may not be as secure as it may seem” and could lead to “broader security problems” with the device.

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“Fingerprints are the opposite of secret,” he wrote.

“You leave them on countless objects that you touch throughout the day: your car door, a glass of water, even the screen of your smartphone... If hackers get hold of a digital copy of your fingerprint, they could use it to impersonate you for the rest of your life, particularly as more and more technologies start relying on fingerprint authentication.”

In the past, Franken has been wary of new technologies that could undermine people’s privacy, like facial recognition and location-tracking features.

The Samsung feature lets people scans fingerprints to use like a password for accessing certain applications, spending money and performing other functions. It’s similar to the Touch ID technology rolled out on Apple’s iPhone 5S last year, which also concerned Franken.

But Samsung’s phone seems to allow the fingerprint technology to be used for more purposes than Apple’s, Franken warned.

“This broader access to the scanner could potentially allow third parties to access sensitive information generated by the technology,” he wrote the heads of the Korean tech giant.  

He sent a list of 13 questions to the company, including whether or not executives thought that fingerprint data could be acquired by the National Security Agency, the FBI and other government agencies.