Senator Al Franken questions Samsung about the Galaxy S5’s security and privacy

Last year, U.S. Senator Al Franken sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook to get some answers about the iPhone 5S’ Touch ID fingerprint scanner. With the letter, Franken hoped to have some assurance about Touch ID’s implementation and your privacy. With Samsung releasing the Galaxy S5 with a fingerprint scanner of its own, the Minnesota Democrat also sent a letter to Samsung that raises the same questions.

In the letter, Franken expressed concern about the security vulnerability of the Galaxy S5’s fingerprint scanner, as well as concern over its expanded uses, such as paying money through PayPal. “I am concerned by reports that Samsung’s fingerprint scanner may not be as secure as it may seem — and those security gaps might create broader security problems on the S5 smartphone,” wrote Franken. “I am writing to request information on how Samsung is addressing these and other privacy questions.”

Last month, German firm Security Research Labs was able to use a lifted fingerprint to bypass the Galaxy S5’s fingerprint scanner. While the firm was able to access the iPhone 5S using the same method, the Galaxy S5 doesn’t place a limit on how many attempts you can make at accessing the device without requiring a password. This, wrote Franklin, invites “bad actors” to gain access to apps.

In the letter, Franken posed 13 security questions to Samsung regarding the Galaxy S5, which include questions about whether Samsung can assure its users that their fingerprints will never be shared with any government and about how the South Korean electronics giant secures the fingerprints. Franken asked that his questions be answered within a month’s time. Franken, however, doesn’t discourage the use of fingerprint technology. “Rather, my goal is to urge companies to deploy this technology in the most secure manner reasonable — and create a public record around how companies are treating sensitive biometric information.”

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