Apple is considering storing customers’ biometric data in the cloud to enable next-generation payment methods, according to new patent application found by Apple Insider.
The application relates to “finger biometric sensor data synchronisation via a cloud computing device and related methods,” with one potential implementation being to authorise a “financial transaction.”
Simply put, this means Apple is considering using its cloud hosting service iCloud to store customers’ fingerprints, so they can be synced to other devices when required — such as to pay for a purchase.
Touch ID is the name of Apple’s biometric verification tool. It was introduced with the iPhone 5S as a security device. Users can press their fingerprint on the home button on their iPhone to unlock it, verify their identity, or make purchases via Apple Pay. Apple has previously emphasised the security measures used for securing Touch ID biometric data, including encrypting and storing it in a “Secure Enclave” on the A7 chip. “Other apps never access your fingerprint data,” their website says. “It’s never stored on Apple servers, and it’s never backed up to iCloud or anywhere else.”
If the proposed technology is introduced, this could be about to change.
iCloud doesn’t have the strongest track record of security. In 2013, intimate photos of dozens of high-profile celebrities were leaked online in what was dubbed “Celebgate,” with Apple’s iCloud service identified as the source.
Apple has suggested a “comingling” of fingerprint information and other verification data for security purposes, but it remains to be seen whether customers will be willing to trust Apple’s servers with such highly sensitive personal information.
It’s important to note that Apple files thousands of patents that never find their way into actual products. They’re often made pre-emptively to cut off competitors and ensnare them in litigation. But this patent is in keeping with what we know of Apple’s intentions, particularly its pushing of Apple Pay.
Currently, Apple Pay users can use their phones to cardlessly make purchases at participating outlets. By being able to sync fingerprints to retail stores, it could make paying for things as simple as the swipe of a finger.
The application also suggests sharing the biometric data over bluetooth or wireless connections when necessary, which could help avoid “corporate or government restrictions [which] may apply to the transfer of biometric data over a shared computing network.”