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    New York Times: Machines Made to Know You, by Touch, Voice, Even by Heart

    The New York Times reports on new ways that companies are looking to secure the privacy of your information. The biometric technologies can identify individuals by their touch, voice, irises, heartbeat or other personal trait:

    Authentication has been a tough nut to crack since the early days of the Web. Now comes a batch of high-tech alternatives, some straight from science fiction, as worries grow about the security risks associated with traditional user name and password systems.

    Apple on Tuesday introduced two new iPhones, including for the first time a model with a fingerprint sensor that can be used instead of a passcode to open the phone and buy products. The new feature is part of a trove of authentication tools being developed for consumers, and not just for phones.

    Some of these, like the fingerprint sensor, involve the immutable properties humans are encoded with, while others turn our phones into verification devices.

    Among the most novel — and also somewhat unsettling — of biometric authentication tools is a new wristband developed by cryptographers at the University of Toronto. It contains a voltmeter to read a heartbeat. […]

    These new technologies arrive against the backdrop of mounting concerns over security and privacy, as the old ways of verifying identity online have been exposed as risky. Buckets of user names and passwords have been stolen from a variety of popular sites, and last month, it was discovered that even passwords as long as 55 characters could be broken. […]

    At the same time, biometric sensors raise questions of security. When Apple’s sensor was announced on Tuesday, a flurry of skepticism and privacy concerns erupted online even though Apple said users’ fingerprints would be stored only on the phone — not sent to online servers or made available to app developers.

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