Smartphone AI: Who Has Your Facial Recognition and Fingerprint Scans?

Smartphone AI: Who Has Your Facial Recognition and Fingerprint Scans?

Who Has Your Facial Recognition and Fingerprint Scans? If you’ve recently purchased a new Smartphone, it likely features either a Fingerprint Sensor, Facial Recognition, Iris Scan, or all three. Biometric scanners are becoming an integral part of AI (Artificial Intelligence) for human identification and mobile payments. However, most current systems face concerns and limitations about security and privacy. 

Who Has Your Facial Recognition and Fingerprint Scans? Seems like everyone. Those who have your facial recognition and fingerprint scans include tech companies (e.g., Apple), retailers, institutions, and governments. Unfortunately, trolls and scammers can also access your facial recognition and fingerprint scans. They use them to access your private information unlawfully. 

In this post, we’ll go into more details about who has access to your biometric data and what they do can do with that kind of information. Let’s dive in. 

Who Has Your Facial Recognition and Fingerprint Scans? Tech Companies

Who Has Your Facial Recognition and Fingerprint Scans Tech Companies
Who Has Your Facial Recognition and Fingerprint Scans Tech Companies

Apple was the pioneer of A.I. that uses FaceID facial recognition for device security. The same company was the pioneer of fingerprint scans when they included TouchID authentication on the iPhone. 

Other companies and android devices soon followed suit. According to ABI Research, devices with fingerprint and face recognition sensors are set to rise significantly. The face recognition and fingerprint sensors are likely to be found not only on phones. They will be in security areas, in houses and buildings, border crossings, health monitors, and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). 

The majority of smartphone users are comfortable using their faces or fingerprints to unlock their phones and make financial transactions. App’s like WhatsApp and Snapchat have gone to lengths to assure users their apps do not collect facial scans and fingerprints. 

Smartphone AI Device Security Systems

Smartphone AI Device Security Systems

For instance, WhatsApp says they use the same biometric data APIs (Application Programming Interface). This is like every other AI-powered app to enable users to access their device security systems. The scans are simply an extra measure of authentication, where someone can’t guess or look over your shoulder. 

Smartphone manufacturers also assure users that the scans are match-on-device biometrics. Meaning, the data is stored only on your device and not held at some remote location in the cloud. Managed by Apple, Alphabet (Google), or any company or government.   

WhatsApp use of Iris Unlock to sign in to whatever device it is on is, of course, is incredible. With these technologies, you can now login using iris scans, facial recognition, or fingerprints, depending on what devices you use.

Who Has Your Facial Recognition and Fingerprint Scans? Retailers and Institutions

In 2019, the Swedish Data Protection Authority fined the Skelleftea Municipality 200,000 Swedish Krona ($23,800). They were fined for using facial recognition technology to track 22 student’s class attendance. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) classes facial images and other biometric information as a select category of data with additional restrictions. 

Some retailers have been using facial recognition to identify possible criminals. Blue Line Technology, a startup in Missouri, has been testing face recognition for several merchant’s store security. However, there’s the risk of companies using facial recognition to track customers for marketing purposes. 

The risk is high that data companies are selling information about where you have been spotted and what you bought. For instance, if you went to a movie theatre to watch an action movie. You will soon be bombarded with ads for more action movies and hero merchandise.

Varied Uses For Facial Recognition, Iris, and Fingerprint Scanner Technologies

Varied Uses For Facial Recognition, Iris, and Fingerprint Scanner Technologies
Varied Uses For Facial Recognition, Iris, and Fingerprint Scanner Technologies

Private and public institutions are finding many varied uses for facial recognition and fingerprint technologies. They might link your biometrics with AI-powered apps on your phones and track your usage. It will be possible for Google to match your face with the sites you visit, apps you use, and the online purchases you make. 

For the most part, companies (retailers and institutions) use biometric data to reach more target customers and get them to buy whatever it is they are selling. With business, it’s all about the bottom line.

This behavior is troubling to many as losing freedom and autonomy and intrusion into fundamental human rights. If you are walking through an intersection, minding your own business in New York City. The local or federal government can now identify you from a traffic light mounted Facial Recognition Camera. This type of technology and behavior is terrifying to many, let alone the possibility of someone hacking this information.

Governments Relying on Biometric Databases

Who Has Your Facial Recognition and Fingerprint Scans? Governments all over the world are relying on biometric databases at airports and border crossing points. The use of biometric scanners has spread far beyond border crossing points. This information is another example of who has your iris, facial recognition, and fingerprint scans information? It is unlikely that you can get that back or removed at this point.

In Washington County, Oregon, the sheriff’s office used Amazon’s facial recognition technology to screen suspects from 2016 to 2020. So far, Portland, San Francisco, and Boston cities have banned facial recognition software. The authorities cite the false arrest of innocent people.

There is no doubt in today’s world of terrorism and political unrest that these technologies are not only helpful but necessary. To have no system in place to keep terrorists out of your country is naive. We obviously crossed a line after 911 in the United States that will have to be reviewed forevermore.

Chinese Surveillance

Chinese Surveillance
Chinese Surveillance

In September 2019, China signed into law legislation requiring customers to use face scans when signing up for new mobile plans and phone numbers.

There are reports of Chinese police using the IJOP (a big data app) for mass surveillance and to keep data on millions of people. IJOP app collects basic information, religious and political status, blood type, photos, and activities abroad. The targets are people from particular ethnic groups and political dissidents. 

Credible reports show that the Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang province who have faced government persecution for ages are under surveillance. Up to a million Uighurs are currently being held in detention in what the Chinese government calls “re-education centers.”

Fears are, many more governments are already in the process of capturing biometric data of phone users. Singapore, Pakistan, and some Eastern European countries have shown interest in adopting surveillance methods using AI-powered apps, though no credible proof is available yet. 

Trolls and Scammers

Currently, scammers and trolls can gain some of your Personally Identifiable Information (PII). In the future, they may also know what you look like. Once you have a person’s facial recognition data, you can find their home address, phone numbers, relatives, and other PII. 

For example, you can upload somebody’s face photo to a Russian website known as FindFace. The website will then return results of the person’s Twitter accounts revealing their name and interests. 

You can then use the name to upload to a site called Family Tree Now. This second website will likely provide you with the person’s age, family ties, and home address. You can use this data to find out almost anything about the person, including accessing their criminal records and asset files. 

Example of Large Scale Identity Theft

Example of Large Scale Identity Theft
Example of Large Scale Identity Theft

An example of large scale identity theft, in 2019. Someone stole over 100,000 photos and license plate information from the U.S. Border Agency database. Many such organizations store their face recognition and fingerprint data on local servers. Thieves attack biometric records in two main ways:

  • Presentation attacks: Also known as spoofing, intruders use artificial artifacts such as masks, face photos, printed iris images, or synthetic fingerprints. 
  • Indirect Attacks: The intruder attacks the database system rather than the device.  

One solution for enhanced security against indirect attacks is to store biometric data on cloud services. Cloud storage ensures proper end-to-end encryption and secure access control applications. 

New technologies are equipping smartphone A.I. with anti-spoofing systems. Typically, these security systems detect patterns that signal live traits. Some A.I. systems use challenge-response methods, whether the user must interact with the system in a certain way. For instance, the A.I. checks for smiles and head movements. 

Who Has Your Facial Recognition and Fingerprint Scans? Conclusion

Data security and privacy are always ongoing tasks. Smartphone AI: Who Has Your Facial Recognition and Fingerprint Scans? The challenge with facial recognition is that intruders can get your photo and use it to access private information. While some governments are taking steps to protect their citizen’s privacy, they face many hurdles.

The good news is so far, AI-powered apps on your smartphone use match-on-device technology, restricting your biometric data to just the device. So hackers and scammers can’t access your biometric data from a central server. A.I. is also becoming better at identifying live signals making it harder to use face masks, fake fingerprints, or iris images. 

We have a long road ahead with keeping controls on AI (Artificial Intelligence). Humans have a tendency, as demonstrated from history, a habit of losing control. The book is still open, and we cannot wait to see the next chapter!!

Please see our additional articles “Smartphone AI: Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) Is It Possible?” and “Smartphone AI: What Is The Difference Between AI and Algorithm?”


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John Mortensen

As a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, geologist, or scientist. I became a project manager which is involved with many of those things. I am a project manager and tech writer who researches the latest alternative and green technologies. We write helpful articles about green electronics and green technology products. AI, extreme weather, electric vehicles, are all in our future and we want to know the best way to deal with the effects of these on the power grid and emergency preparedness.

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