One of the topline features of the iPhone 5s is its fingerprint scanning system Touch ID, but Apple is now clarifying some nuances about the way the device works in order to calm potential security fears before they can take hold. An Apple spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that the iPhone 5s will not store actual images of a user's fingerprint, correcting an impression that the company itself may have inadvertently given. In a promotional video for the new phone, Apple's senior vice-president of hardware engineering Dan Riccio explains that, "The sensor uses advanced capacitive touch to take, in essence, a high-resolution image of your fingerprint." It then analyzes the sensor's data before "all fingerprint information is encrypted, and stored inside the secure enclave" on the phone's A7 processor. As the company clarified to the Journal, fingerprint "data" is stored — not an image of the fingerprint itself.
Storing the resulting digital signature, rather than a complete recreation of a user's fingerprint, is certainly less of a sticking point for those concerned by the implications of the new system. Of course, if someone has control of your iPhone without your knowledge they're likely going to be able to access all kinds of sensitive data — and fingerprint identification itself can be hacked in various ways. Thankfully for those that opt to use Touch ID, Apple's provided a few fallbacks: the Journal reports that the iPhone 5s will require a passcode to unlock the phone after a reboot or if it hasn't been unlocked in the last 48 hours.