Since Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) arrived in the United States Senate, he’s become the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. He’s made it his mission to raise questions about tech issues that he feels are improper, unjust, or just downright questionable.
The debut of the new iPhones 5S, replete with a fingerprint reader, has now also gotten Franken’s attention. On Thursday, the Minnesota senator published a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, raising questions about the logic in making fingerprint readers more mainstream.
He also has specific questions for Cupertino:
(1) Is it possible to convert locally stored fingerprint data into a digital or visual format that can be used by third parties?
(2) Is it possible to extract and obtain fingerprint data from an iPhone? If so, can this be done remotely, or with physical access to the device?…
(10) Under American intelligence law, the Federal Bureau of Investigation can seek an order requiring the production of “any tangible thing (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items)” if they are deemed relevant to certain foreign intelligence investigations. See 50 U.S.C. § 1861. Does Apple consider fingerprint data to be “tangible things” as defined in the USA Patriot Act?
The problem, senator, is that the NSA has been caught lying about this kind of stuff. Why do you think the FBI is any better?
Let’s set up a timeline here. We’re at the first step:
1) Franken: Can the FBI get the fingerprints?
2a) FBI: No.
2b) Apple: No, and how dare you ask me that!
3) Snowden: Yes
4a) FBI: Okay, yes.
4b) Apple: Yes, but they forced us. Not giving it is treason.