Face, Memory or Fingerprint… Which Would our Data Prefer?
As our personal data becomes more valuable, why are we valuing aesthetic features over practical security?
Jonathan Shaw Newcastle 15/03/19
Entrepreneurs Society, Newcastle University
Smartphones are increasingly becoming a large part of our lives, with Apple being a key brand in the market, having a 38.7% market share in the US (June 2018). The average American adult spends an average of 3 hours, 35 minutes per day on their phones, according to e-marketer research. Therefore, it is important that our mobile devices are as secure as possible from cyber-attacks as possible. Phone companies are constantly developing new methods to improve the security of their devices, helping to convince consumers that they have the superior product. These improvements have also allowed for technology such as near-field communication (NFC) to be implemented into the phone software, creating a safer system which has paved for the way for new systems of payment such as Apple Pay.
In recent times we have seen huge developments in the security of phones, starting with Motorola offering the fingerprint scanner in 2011, later being heavily publicised by Apple releasing it as part of their iPhone 5S in 2013. This feature not only improved the user experience by making it easier to log in but also helped increase consumers trust of Apple iPhones security, undoubtedly helping boost sales and market share statistics. In a less revolutionary step, Apple implemented a 6-digit pin as the default system in the update of their operating system to iOS 9 in 2015. This improved the security of their smartphones as instead of there being 10,000 possible combinations with a 4-digit pin, there are 1 million possible combinations for the 6-digit security code.
However, the next transformational innovation was the introduction of Face ID on the iPhone X, in 2017. Face ID removed the need for a fingerprint scanner, as it uses biometric authentication technology to scan an individual’s face and unlock the device. This helped Apple create an almost bezel-less display, to maximise the user's view of the screen, creating a new design and a new model for the next generations of iPhones to improve upon. In the future, we could assume that Apple’s next step is to remove the notch and create a completely bezel-less display? But what security feature will the face scanner be replaced with?
I think the future of phone security systems is the in-glass fingerprint scanner which uses an optical sensor which sits under the display screen. This allows for a complete bezel-less design and is something I believe Apple will implement into their next generations of iPhones.
However, you must assess their practicality vs aesthetic quality. We must question are these new security features more secure than a standard pin code or are they just an impressive feat hiding security flaws, which companies use to increase sales due to their aesthetic qualities?
Although they are secure, they are arguably less secure than previous generations, but because companies are trying to outdo each other with each version, they will always favour the impressive over the security in this area. I believe they are less focused on quality and are used more as a justification for the high prices for their phones. For example, the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone, Apple claim that there is a 1 in 50,000 chance that someone else’s fingerprint will falsely unlock your iPhone whereas with a 6-digit pin there is a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of guessing the right code.
Now let me ask you this, what would you prefer to protect your data, your face, your fingerprint or your memory?
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