Google Rolls Out Password-Free Logins for Android Users


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Throughout all of modern computing history, passwords have been the primary method of securing data. The problems with passwords are numerous, but things are slowly changing with biometrics, hardware security keys, and so on. Google is leveraging several new technologies to make one of its sites password-free, but only for Android users.

Google says it has automated protections that prevent unauthorized individuals from accessing user account, but no system built on passwords is perfect. You’ll never convince everyone to use strong passwords, and some of those who do will have to write them on post-it notes. For the first time, you won’t need to use a password to access your Google account data. However, that’s only true for one service and select Android phones right now. 

Starting today, you can go to Google’s password manager site on your smartphone and log in with a tap. The password manager site gives you access to all the account credentials saved in Chrome and Android autofill. So, it’s a wealth of high-value data that could potentially allow an attacker to compromise many of a victim’s accounts. Instead of using a password to log in, you can use the secure unlock method on your phone — for example, your fingerprint. Tap the sensor to verify your identity, and you’re in. 

The Pixel 4’s face unlock should work with this feature at launch, but current face unlock methods aren’t secure enough.

Google doesn’t have fingerprint data on its servers — that stays locally on your phone. That’s also a fundamental part of the FIDO2 design spearheaded by Google and others. Google registers a platform-bound FIDO credential on your phone that serves to verify your identity not unlike a hardware security key. When you visit the Google password manager, the site uses a WebAuthn “Get” call to retrieve the stored credential. That works as a FIDO2 signature to verify your identity. 

Currently, this feature only works on the aforementioned Google password manager site. You’ll also need a Pixel phone. The feature will roll out to all Android phones running version 7 (Nougat) or higher. Since this feature is plugged into the Android secure unlock feature, it should automatically work with any future secure unlock methods. For example, the advanced face unlock capability coming to the Pixel 4. Current Android phones with face unlock won’t count as a secure unlock method for the purposes of Google’s new login feature.

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Facebook could face billions in potential damages as court rules facial recognition lawsuit can proceed – gpgmail


Facebook is facing exposure to billions of dollars in potential damages as a federal appeals court on Thursday rejected Facebook’s arguments to halt a class action lawsuit claiming it illegally collected and stored the biometric data of millions of users.

The class action lawsuit has been working its way through the courts since 2015, when Illinois Facebook users sued the company for alleged violations of the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act by automatically collecting and identifying people in photographs posted to the service.

Now, thanks to an unanimous decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, the lawsuit can proceed.

The most significant language from the decision from the circuit court seems to be this:

 We conclude that the development of face template using facial-recognition technology without consent (as alleged here) invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests. Similar conduct is actionable at common law.

The American Civil Liberties Union came out in favor of the court’s ruling.

“This decision is a strong recognition of the dangers of unfettered use of face surveillance technology,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, in a statement. “The capability to instantaneously identify and track people based on their faces raises chilling potential for privacy violations at an unprecedented scale. Both corporations and the government are now on notice that this technology poses unique risks to people’s privacy and safety.”

As April Glaser noted in “Slate”, Facebook already may have the world’s largest database of faces, and that’s something that should concern regulators and privacy advocates.

“Facebook wants to be able to certify identity in a variety of areas of life just as it has been trying to corner the market on identify verification on the web,” Siva Vaidhyanathan told Slate in an interview. “The payoff for Facebook is to have a bigger and broader sense of everybody’s preferences, both individually and collectively. That helps it not only target ads but target and develop services, too.”

That could apply to facial recognition technologies as well. Facebook, thankfully, doesn’t sell its facial recognition data to other people, but it does allow companies to use its data to target certain populations. It also allows people to use its information for research and to develop new services that could target Facebooks billion-strong population of users.

As our own Josh Constine noted in an article about the company’s planned cryptocurrency wallet, the developer community poses as much of a risk to how Facebook’s products and services are used and abused as Facebook itself.

Facebook has said that it plans to appeal the decision. “We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” a spokesman said in an email to “Reuters”.

Now, the lawsuit will go back to the court of U.S. District Judge James Donato in San Francisco who approved the class action lawsuit last April for a possible trial.

Under the privacy law in Illinois, negligent violations could be subject to damages of up to $1,000 and intentional violations of privacy are subject to up to $5,000 in penalties. For the potential 7 million Facebook users that could be included in the lawsuit those figures could amount to real money.

“BIPA’s innovative protections for biometric information are now enforceable in federal court,” added Rebecca Glenberg, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Illinois. “If a corporation violates a statute by taking your personal information without your consent, you do not have to wait until your data is stolen or misused to go to court. As our General Assembly understood when it enacted BIPA, a strong enforcement mechanism is crucial to hold companies accountable when they violate our privacy laws. Corporations that misuse Illinoisans sensitive biometric data now do so at their own peril.”

These civil damages could come on top of fines that Facebook has already paid to the U.S. government for violating its agreement with the Federal Trade Commission over its handling of private user data. That resulted in one of the single largest penalties levied against a U.S. technology company. Facebook is potentially on the hook for a $5 billion payout to the U.S. government. That penalty is still subject to approval by the Justice Department.


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