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Apple’s new operating system will come with an option to lock your iPhone’s fingerprint scanner and bring up a hotline to the police. The feature, ‘Emergency SOS’, was uncovered by programmers with access to the beta version of iOS 11. They found that TouchID was temporarily disabled by rapidly hitting the power button five times. This means users couldn’t be forced to unlock their phones by attackers or thieves.
The basic SOS call function already operated with the Apple Watch, automatically calling the local emergency number. However, the ability to switch off the TouchID temporarily will enhance personal security as it will prevent assailants from forcing people to access their devices.
According to dailymail.co.uk, it also brings up a shortcut to dial emergency services, allowing the user to simply swipe right to dial 999. TouchID is then reactivated by entering your password. Upon activation, the feature will send a message to the user’s saved emergency contacts, and share their location.
The feature will be available on new iPhone models when i0S 11 is publicly released later this year.
It could be a desirable asset for iPhone 8 buyers, which is rumored to offer facial recognition unlocking. However, concerns have been raised over the potential for users being forced to unlock their phones using facial recognition.
Theverge.com reports that unlocking phones with a fingerprint sensor has been a hot topic for law enforcement requests. Police in Michigan even 3D-printed a murder victim’s fingerprint to gain access to a device. With fears over access to devices at border control points around the world, this quick trick will at least prevent Touch ID from being used until a passcode is entered.
Emergency SOS will allow the person using it to quickly disable the instant-unlock capabilities, should they believe someone might try and forcibly bypass their phone’s security. The iOS 11 operating system is expected to be released alongside the iPhone 8 in September.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said previously that he won’t weaken the unbreakable encryption technology on Apple products to allow the US government to access iMessages because it could actually damage national security. Cook said he will not create a ‘back door’ for the government unless Apple is served with a warrant.
Apple’s encryption technology makes it impossible for anyone but the intended recipient to see a message and it’s so strong even the company can’t get to communications. Ex-FBI Director James Comey, former UK Prime Minister David Cameron and others had all called for Apple and other tech companies to create ways to access messages sent by suspected criminals.
Cook explained that his stance on the powerful encryption doesn’t just come down to the issue of privacy versus national security and that since ‘we’re America’ that ‘we should have both’. Cook added: ‘If the government lays a proper warrant on us today, we’ll give the specific information that is requested because we have to by law”.