An Apple patent noted by Patently Apple describes how iOS devices could make it very easy to police to identify thieves by automatically taking photos and video of them, and capturing their fingerprint data via the Touch ID sensor.


The patent says that the measures could be triggered by repeated failed attempts to unlock the device, or by the owner enabling the protections using Find My iPhone from another device.

A computing device may determine to capture biometric information in response to the occurrence of one or more trigger conditions. The trigger condition may be receipt of one or more instructions from one or more other computing devices, detection of potential unauthorized use by the computing device, normal operation of the computing device, and so on. The computing device may obtain biometric information and may store such biometric information. Such biometric information may be one or more fingerprints, one or more images of a current user of the computing device, video of the current user, audio of the environment of the computing device, forensic interface use information, and so on. The computing device may then provide the stored biometric information for identification of one or more unauthorized users.

iPhones and iPads of course already have strong anti-theft measures. Find My iPhone allows devices to be marked as lost and their locations tracked, while Activation Lock means that a device cannot be reset without the original owner approving it using their Apple ID and password. But this patent would step things up a notch by providing law enforcement with evidence of the identity of a thief. It would, though, need to prevent thieves powering-down the device.

We of course include our usual disclaimer that Apple patents a great many things, only a small number of which make it into devices, but this one would definitely get my vote.

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