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Here’s why one reader thinks the iPhone fingerprint scanner is a privacy problem


We love our readers—especially those who leave thoughtful, well-informed comments. So every weekend we highlight our favorites from the preceding week.

On Monday, Andrea Peterson argued that instead of expanding its Vita line of portable devices, Sony should scrap the Vita. Reader BJ Wanlund agrees:

The Vita has been in serious trouble from the start. Sony felt the need to charge $250 for the Wi-Fi only version, and $300 if you wanted 3G that never really worked anywhere unless you had an AT&T MicroCell. Add on to that the fact that, until recently, the Vita really hasn't had all that many good, system-selling games. Sony is trying now to push the Vita as a companion piece for the PS4 to try and salvage something (and rip off Nintendo again in the process), but I, too, think the time has well since passed for Sony to save the Vita.

On Wednesday, Andrea argued that privacy concerns with the iPhone were overblown. But KnottWhittingley begs to differ:

If the iPhone can discriminate between your print(s) and someone else's, the NSA can use the same information to do the same. (Even if it's an encrypted version of a hash of a nonstandard representation of your print.)

Besides, as Der Speigel recently revealed, the NSA has hacked the hell out of the iPhone and can get any information on it. Presumably that includes the raw print scan sensor output, which they can process any way they like, including putting it in a standard format for AFIS indexing.

And "only your thumb" is not reassuring at all. The prints you're most likely to use---thumb or first or second finger---are the same prints you're most likely to leave at a scene, on anything you pick up, grab, or push away. (We use our opposable thumbs all the time, usually in opposition to at least the first and second finger.)

Wednesday was the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Brian Fung quoted one person's recollection that the Internet ground to a halt in the hours after the Twin Towers fell. But b_rod says his experience was very different:

Less than three miles from the Pentagon, I was able to use the Internet and email to let loved ones know we were okay and to get the word on people I cared about in New York without delay. Our phones, cell and landline, were useless. The Internet was our only connection with the rest of the world that day. I remember talking with friends over the next week about how grateful we were that the Internet hadn't crashed.

Thanks for reading, and please keep the great comments coming!



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Timothy B. Lee · September 14, 2013

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