Apple Buys AuthenTec

Apple acquires biometric firm for $350 million (San Antonio Business Journal)

Apple Inc. has reportedly paid $350 million to acquire Melbourne, Fla.-based AuthenTec Inc., a maker of fingerprint authentication technology, Bloomberg reports.

The deal will help Apple improve its biometric features to improve security on future releases of the iPad and iPhone.

For some perspective, Safran bought L-1’s biometrics business for $1.6 billion in late 2010.

Josh Franklin at Seeking Alpha deserves a special prize. He called it here on June 4 when AUTH shares were trading for about $4.60/s. Pre-open today is about $8.16. Since his article at the time disclosed his long position in AUTH, he’s probably already counting his special prize as I type this.

The Seeking Alpha piece explains a lot of the rationale for the purchase.

Does Apple’s Siri store users’ biometrics?

Wiping Away Your Siri “Fingerprint” (Technology Review)

Even in an age of vanishing privacy, people using Apple’s digital assistant Siri share a distinct concern. Recordings of their actual voices, asking questions that might be personal, travel over the Internet to a remote Apple server for processing. Then they remain stored there; Apple won’t say for how long.

That voice recording, unlike most of the data produced by smart phones and other computers, is an actual biometric identifier…

The article doesn’t insinuate that Apple is misbehaving or planning to misbehave with the data it records from Siri users, but it raises interesting questions about how the data is, or could be, used.

There are many very good reasons, related to improving performance, for Apple to maintain a huge database of actual recordings of Siri queries.

Accent, gender, region, nationality, age, grammar. There’s an amazing variety of ways people express themselves compared to the essence of what they actually mean.

How do different people ask the same question? “Where’s the nearest sub shop?” “Where’s the nearest hoagie shop?” Is it the same question?

But the article rightly points out that those recordings are, or at some point may be, biometric identifiers, so it’s wise to recognize them as such.

So, the short answer to the title question is “yes.” But if users record a personalized voice mail message, the cellular provider stores the a user’s biometric in exactly the same sense. If a mobile device user takes a picture of herself and uses a cloud storage service, that service stores her (face) biometric. It’s wort keeping these things in mind but also in perspective.

See also: Voice Recognition ≠ Speech Recognition