SXSW 2015: Fingerprints and Intimacy

As technology becomes more personal, brands are looking for new and smarter ways to connect with consumers. Apple’s new Touch ID is an example: instead of dealing with the highly encrypted and intricate process behind its secure mobile transactions, the consumer sees only a thumbprint enabling a purchase. In fact, the experience goes beyond personal—it’s essentially intimate.

During a short discussion at SXSW, though, Dustin Kirkland from Canonical proposed a new mindset: the fingerprint should not function as a password. It isn’t secret, and if it gets compromised, there’s no changing it. Kirkland thinks since biometrics are fixed, they should function as usernames. In that sense, Apple’s Touch ID is only activated by a thumbprint, not unlocked by it. The real unlocking occurs behind the scenes, and the magic is that there’s no way to tell the difference.

Far from being an arcane security matter, marketers should pay attention because identity is at the root of the consumer experience. Magical experiences only happen when tech is smart enough to get intimate.