Privacy 101: How your fingerprint could actually make your iPhone less secure

Fingerprints and thumbprints might be convenient, but they can be used against you.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

When Apple introduced its fingerprint reader to the iPhone, the company thought it would help keep your data more secure.

But the problem is that feds have figured out that if it legally wants access to your iPhone's data, it can't force you to turn over your passcode, though it can force you to unlock it with your fingerprint.

It's a rare instance that the law has moved faster than the tech in your pocket. US authorities figured out that your fingerprint is not subject to the Fifth Amendment, which protects the right to silence and prevents self-incrimination.

In other words, it protects what's stored in your head, but not what's at on your finger tips.

It's still up for discussion in the courts, but if you have vital secrets on your iPhone or work in an industry or space where you risk interactions with the law, such as peaceful protests, activism, or journalism, you may want to turn off Touch ID on your lock screen.

New to iOS 11? Change these privacy and security settings right now

Disabling your fingerprint on the lock screen takes less than a minute. Here's how.

1. Go to the Settings on your iPhone.

2. Go to Touch ID & Passcode.

3. Enter your lock screen passcode. (If you haven't set a strong passcode already, check out this guide.)

4. At the top of the screen, make sure iPhone Unlock is set to off.

5. You may also strengthen your passcode requirement by scrolling down and changing the Require Passcode to Immediately.

There's no harm in using your fingerprint for Apple Pay or the iTunes or App Store. But ensuring that the lock screen is a passcode only further protects your data.

VIDEO: Police used pacemaker data to arrest man for arson and fraud

Editorial standards