One method for understanding the future directions of technology in business is to look at the patents that some of the major tech giants are filing. This is often, although not always, an indication of the technology that is currently being developed by the industry leaders and gives a guide as to what technology is being prepared for the next phase of commercialization. One of the most recently filed patents from Apple is entitled “Integrally molded die and bezel structure for fingerprint sensors and the like,” which is basically a unitary encapsulation structure which is intended to house existing technology that can miniaturize finger print reading technology. The finger print reading technology is already owned by Apple because of its purchase of Authentec.
The advantages of such technology are obvious. If an iPhone can be made commercially viable which has fingerprint scanning technology then the use of the phone will be capable of being locked to particular users simply based on their finger prints which is a very difficult biological characteristic to fake. Also, the widespread availability of this technology may be the beginning of passwords becoming redundant or at lease seriously reduced in their importance as online banking services begin to use finger print identification as a security method rather than pass word identification. The theoretical likelihood that two people have matching finger prints is about 1 in 60 billion however, depending on the accuracy of the scanner which is not yet known because the finalized version has not yet been produced, there could be between a 1% and 4% false positive identification rate with a scanner like this.
However, the development of this technology will also require a rethink of the application of privacy laws. The implications for privacy law of the widespread use of such as device are of concern because if this type of device enters widespread use, it will also, presumably result in the accumulation and retention of large amounts of commercially held fingerprint data. Currently fingerprint data is only stored for the purposes of law enforcement and if subject to strict controls. However, if this type of data were to be held by banks and financial institutions, the tax department and basically any other large bureaucratic organisation, anonymity would become almost impossible and the process of targeting individuals based on their fingerprint identity would become easier in orders of magnitude.