Apple Patents Method to Catch Phone Thief's Fingerprints

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Stop, thief! A patent awarded to Apple this week would capture the fingerprints and mug shots of unauthorized people attempting to log in to iOS devices.

In the patent filing, Apple Insider reports, Apple describes software that would store biometric information of someone attempting to access a device without permission. Several conditions could trigger the recording, including an instruction sent to the phone or tablet from another device, similar to how Find My iPhone allows you to remotely wipe your phone.

Once activated, the device would capture fingerprints "from one or more fingerprint sensors," images or video of the user attempting access, audio from the microphone, and other forensic information like how fast or how hard the user presses buttons on the device.

All the information gathered could be sent to Apple's servers, where it could be cross-referenced with an online database containing information of known phone thieves. That information would be collected and analyzed in compliance with "well-established privacy policies," according to the patent. The filing also notes that identifying information would be deleted after a certain period of time if it's not needed.

Apple acknowledges that the patent's approach to identifying thieves is not foolproof, since they could still correctly guess a user's passcode.

And, of course, tech companies do not always use the tech they patent in actual products.

Even as Apple contemplates surveillance software to catch thieves' fingerprints, it is also reportedly planning to redesign the physical elements of its devices that would make that approach possible. According to Bloomberg, the company is already at work on a major redesign of the iPhone for 2017 that removes the "home" button. That could mean that the Touch ID fingerprint sensor will be moved to the back or sides of the handset, or perhaps integrated into the display.

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