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Holger Frohloff

All your data are belong to us

2 min read

The latest Chrome beta (version 70) introduces changes to the Shape Detection API and the Web Authentication API.

The Shape Detection API consists of three APIs: A Face Detection API, a Barcode Detection API and a Text Detection API. Given an image bitmap or a blob, the Face Detection API returns the location of faces and the locations of eyes, noses, and mouths within those faces. To give you rudimentary control of performance, you can limit the number of returned faces and prioritize speed over performance.

They cannot (yet) compare faces and recognize known faces in the browser. Give it a year. Soon browser plugin creators are able to scan the photos you upload to Facebook and identify the people you had fun with last night. If you think I am exaggerating, please wait for the next paragraph.

The Credential Management API, enabled in Chrome 51, defined a framework for handling credentials that included semantics for creating, getting, and storing them The Web Authentication API […] allows web applications to create and use strong, cryptographically attested, and application-scoped credentials to strongly authenticate users. Also enabled by default are macOS's TouchID and Android's fingerprint sensor via Web Authentication. These allow developers to access biometric authenticators through the Credential Management API's PublicKeyCredential type.

(Emphasis added by me)

The Web Authentication API draft from 12 September 2018 has a section on Privacy Considerations.

Biometric authenticators perform the biometric recognition internally in the authenticator - though for platform authenticators the biometric data might also be visible to the client, depending on the implementation. Biometric data is not revealed to the WebAuthn Relying Party; it is used only locally to perform user verification authorizing the creation and registration of, or authentication using, a public key credential. A malicious Relying Party therefore cannot discover the user’s personal identity via biometric data, and a security breach at a Relying Party cannot expose biometric data for an attacker to use for forging logins at other Relying Parties.

(Emphasis added by me)

… "depending on the implementation"… I use my fingerprints to access my laptop and used to use it for my phone. I trust Apple. This is my decision. I wouldn't trust Chrome and web developers to keep my biometric data safe.

There is no point here. Today I have nothing clever to say. Only, I slightly worry what oversight there will be for this data. I know the draft says different, and it seems unlikely, but: When will we see the first headline in the news that a database for the website of StartupCo was breached and, among stolen the data, were some biometric datasets.

History shows that the more ways there are for things to go wrong, the surer it is that they go that way.

Keep safe.

You, Holger

PS: You perhaps recognized the pun in the headline. If not, you can read about it here: All your base are belong to us. Excuse my nerdishness 😉

PPS: One more for the German readers: Nerdish by nature 😇

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