Apple's Touch ID shows the post-PRISM iCloud's not a selling point

You got to hand it to the NSA for killing cloud-based services: Apple [AAPL] yesterday introduced new biometric security within iPhone 5S amid the promise that your prints are not sent into the cloud; meanwhile Google and others are telling US authorities that the snooping revelations have damaged their business.

[ABOVE: Apple's iPhone 5S ad explains a little about fingerprint authentication, which it calls "Touch ID".]

The cloud is no longer a selling point

Apple's promise that your fingerprints are not stored in the cloud underlines just how much damage the NSA has done with its actions: after all, revelation of its practise of mass surveillance across people's data was inevitably going to become public at some point. History shows us this.

The argument may be that this information should never have emerged "for national security", but the inevitability of the revelation calls into question the moral and ethical judgment of those who decided to create these surveillance systems in the first place.

Apple states:

"All fingerprint information is encrypted and stored securely in the Secure Enclave inside the A7 chip on the iPhone 5s; it’s never stored on Apple servers or backed up to iCloud."

This statement speaks volumes:

The subtext to the statement is that NOT storing data "in the cloud" has now become a selling point, thanks to the NSA.

The second thing it says, given that Apple has spent billions of dollars on server infrastructure worldwide, is that the damaged credibility of cloud services has impacted Apple's business.

Et tu, Google?

That's the same argument you see coming from Google and others, working with a White House panel in hope of using the First Amendment as a platform for revealing more information on what the NSA is up to.

Google complains its reputation and business have been affected by these revelations. It's not just the revelations, it's the fact these actions have been taking place at all -- as I note, it's inevitable they would be revealed eventually. Eventually became now.

Google wants to tell the world the extent of NSA intelligence demands it receives, claiming it gets fewer than 1,000 each year, the search giant says: "The government has identified no statute or regulation that prohibits such disclosure and it is not appropriate for this court to undertake the essentially legislative function of creating such a prohibition."

Google also denies that the NSA has been able to sneak into its servers without its knowledge. "As for recent reports that the U.S. government has found ways to circumvent our security systems, we have no evidence of any such thing ever occurring." (Reuters)

Maybe. It's impossible to know for sure if these actions haven't taken place, perhaps as Internet traffic is routed through the remote Ascension Island.

There's no need to be paranoid, of course. The eavesdropping is "for our protection". However, Apple is clearly aiming at enterprise users (and everyone else) with its new top-flight iPhone 5S. That device is packed with features to please this market.

Yet one of the features the company thinks will most please this market is that the primary identification technology used in the phone explicitly ignored the cloud.

That's a pretty big deal. We cannot be certain Apple would have mentioned this promise if Edward Snowden had not revealed the problems with surveillance and the cloud.

It seems to me that until the emergence of some form of digital bill of rights in which the online rights of individual and enterprise citizens are defined, cloud services now seem far less secure.

Given the vital nature of cloud services among technology companies of all stripes, this is a major blow against the evolution of connected intelligence.

Apple's declaration that your fingerprint doesn't migrate to the cloud is a tacit admission of this.

Where do we go now?

Google+? If you're one of those who likes to use social media and also happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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