Beyond Fingerprints: High-Five to Unlock

On September 19th, Senator Al Franken sent a letter to Apple’s C.E.O., Tim Cook. A week earlier, Cook had unveiled the iPhone 5s, which features a fingerprint-authentication system called Touch ID; Franken, himself an iPhone user, wanted to know how the company planned to safeguard such a personal piece of information.“If someone hacks your password, you can change it—as many times as you want. But you can’t change your fingerprints.” wrote Franken. 

While a gesture-based unlocking mechanism has been used by Google’s Android operating system for years, labs have recently come up with far more sophisticated variations. Nasir Memon, a computer scientist at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in Brooklyn, is developing programs for touchscreens that not only recognize discrete gestures—such as a five-finger pinch, or a motion similar to turning a combo lock—but also the person performing them. 

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