Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Standards! (Lenovo, PayPal, Apple, and you - or why people are barking at the new iPhone)

I've talked about standards before, and how standards are developed. It's kind of like the way sausages are made, or (as we currently deal with a partial government shutdown) how legislation is passed.

Apple's recent phone and its inclusion of biometric capability have merited comment from one Michael Barrett of the FIDO Alliance. Barrett's day job is with PayPal, as its Chief Information Security Officer. PayPal would obviously be concerned about the security of mobile phones, and has therefore been one of the active members in the FIDO Alliance, which includes other members such as Blackberry, Google, Lenovo, and LG Electronics.

Apple is not a member of the FIDO Alliance - something that USA Today has noted, and Barrett has acknowledged.

Touch ID, for the moment, is not FIDO-compliant. Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris declined comment.

However, Barrett says Touch ID could easily be adapted to FIDO. "Our view is that it's possible Apple might choose to start using FIDO, but that's probably a couple of years out."

I didn't see Samsung on the list either, by the way, nor did I see Nokia. Google's membership in the FIDO Alliance presumably includes Motorola Mobility.

Why should Apple, Nokia, or Samsung care about the FIDO Alliance? Here's what the Alliance says:

The Alliance plans to change the nature of authentication by developing specifications that define an open, scalable, interoperable set of mechanisms that supplant reliance on passwords to securely authenticate users of online services.

We'll see what happens.

By the way, I originally heard about this via findBIOMETRICS - another FIDO Alliance member. And - no surprise - findBIOMETRICS is in favor of this:

The industry is moving ahead full steam, with fingerprint sensors no longer a question to ask but a reality to deal with. A common set of standards like the FIDO protocol is a clear necessary step in making this coming generation of everyday logical access a positive, potentially historical shift in the way humans interact with the virtual world.

However, Apple has a history of going its own way, and positioning this as a competitive advantage. I don't really see any incentive for Apple to associate itself with (ugh!) mere ANDROID folks. They're bozos, you know.
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