Apple researching a system that would capture biometric data of thieves via iPhone sensors

By , Aug 25, 2016


An Apple patent application published Thursday by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) describes methods of capturing and storing biometric information of thieves via the iPhone’s sensors, including fingerprints, photos, videos and a wealth of other forensic data.

Titled “Biometric capture for unauthorized user identification,” the proposed and somewhat controversial security system would leverage machine learning to proactively capture an unauthorized user’s fingerprint and a picture after unsuccessful Touch ID/passcode attempts or if user-defined criteria have been met.

“A computing device may determine to capture biometric information in response to the occurrence of one or more trigger conditions,” reads the patent abstract. Such biometric information may be one or more fingerprints, images or even videos of an unauthorized user, plus additional forensic information.

“The computing device may then provide the stored biometric information for identification of one or more unauthorized users,” says the patent. Additional forensic information logged in the background in the event of an unauthorized device use includes keystrokes, time stamps, location, speed, air pressure, audio data and more.

Captured data would be either stored locally on the device (and purged if storage is low or data is no longer needed) or sent to Apple’s servers to cross reference fingerprints and photos “with an online database containing information of known users.”

Apple patent capture thieves Touch ID

Provided it sees light of the day, the invention should strengthen the security of iOS and help assist in device recovery and criminal prosecution in the case of a theft.

As AppleInsider cautions, using an iPhone or iPad’s Touch ID module, camera and other sensors to capture and store information about a potential thief could be “legally fuzzy” as it’d enter into “the gray area of proactive digital forensics”.

Apple’s patent application was filed for in April 2016 and credits engineers Byron B. Han, Craig A. Marciniak and John A. Wright as its inventors.

Source: USPTO via AppleInsider

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  • jOn Garrett

    No F**”%king way!! How does it know the difference from a “thief” to a person who found one? Or just picked up one? Or given one by somebody else?

    How many times have you tried to use your own phone and enter your code wrong or to hastily removed your finger before it had a chance to read it?

    • Elias Chao

      Well, a thief wouldn’t answer a call from the owner trying to get the phone back, someone who found one would.

      Also, this information would be accesible in case you lost your phone. You wouldn’t look into it if you know you have it.

      It’s not like they’ll send your information to the police or something. They probably gonna have this information somewhere in iCloud.

    • madmaxmedia

      You don’t automatically get convicted if your thumbprint is on someone else’s phone, the point is just to save the data when TouchID fails just in case there is a theft involved.

      But that data can be accessed later, if the phone is reported as stolen. Of course, authorities need to be careful and not automatically assume guilt. I think this is a good theft-deterrent, within a month or so everyone (including potential thieves) will know that stealing an iPhone is not only useless (due to iCloud lock) but very risky as well (due to TouchID.)

  • Elias Chao

    So they’d implement iCaughtYouPro into iOS. Cool.

  • This would be awesome.

  • Bugs Bunnay

    Yea well with the price we pay i’m surprised they didn’t make this damn thing available in the first place!

  • doubtless this will and should extend to dangerous weapons and automobiles