The Editor Bytes Back –Is Passbook on iOS 6 a Good Idea or Dangerous

The introduction of Passbook in iOS 6 this month was interesting in that it brought Apple up to the level that many companies have already been at with their offerings.  While this introduction was good in one respect, it also left me once again pondering what this means for the world of personal information security.  It has a number of us actually pondering what Apple is thinking about other than ease of use.

Passbook gives the user a really easy way to keep track of airplane tickets, prepaid cards, rewards memberships and other items of personal data.   It is a forward thinking method of payments and finally implements many of the realities of the world around us.   That means, in and out of stores within  a matter of minutes and with the least amount of hassle, making our shopping and customer experience a much better one over all.

Even though the concept is streamlining the shopping experience, the application idea of Passbook is not new and actually has been used in Japan for a number of years with Japan Railways View cards being part of the NTT Docomo Cell Phones.   Just swipe the phone at the train entrances or at stores where the card is accepted and the funds are automatically deducted from your card via the cellular phone.   Simple, easy to use but also a major pain if you happen to lose your phone or have it stolen.  While the later issue is not so prevalent in Japan, it is still an issue even here.  Unfortunately, theft has been a problem since the introduction of the iPhone and the iPad is that many elements of the criminal world have targeted these items as must have.  This is especially prevalent in major metropolitan areas where gangs of tech toy thieves sole purpose is in stealing the devices and being what they are, they have been easy to fence.

We as technophiles have contributed to this surge in crime when  put our hard earned money into owning the latest and the greatest of the devices, nearly as soon as Apple introduces them.  Just as a new device is released to the public, thieves begin targeting the devices.  Even with the new finder apps being installed and activated, many of these devices are never recovered.  Apple has been keen to make strides in the security department for many years with the Find my iPhone app and other means of tracking our prized possessions.   While these apps do help, Apples policy of not questioning when a phone is turned in for a new one or asking for ID makes the recovery of stolen phones even less likely and it makes the thieves ill gotten gains nearly permanent and untraceable.

Now with the introduction of Passbook, there is  one more reason out there for thieves to target these devices.  Now users will be loading their iPhones and iPads with the details that so many of us work so hard to protect.  Our credit cards, our Starbucks cards and many other monetary devices will be in the iPhone ready for the thieves to use.   This fact alone will make the iPhone even a bigger target.

Apple must change their policy and start requiring ID for exchanges.  Especially if people are putting their personal monetary information into the devices.   Phones must be attached to an ID in order to not only protect the user but also to protect Apple.

However, that being said, Apple cannot be the brains for every iPhone user there is.  iCloud is a  nice feature as is Find my iPhone, but the things we carry in our phones is what we must think about.   We suggest that everyone use Find my iPhone and make sure it is turned on.  We also recommend that users add a personal pass code to their phone.These two security measures alone will help with securing your data but obviously it will not do everything.

Entering personal data into a phone requires some though on the part of the individual users.  Users certainly do not want to put their debit card or credit card along with the PINs into the phone and even when you do add cards such as Starbucks, you should make the amount of funds attached to the cards limited in funds.  Personally, I usually limit the content of said cards to 20-30 USD when I do use them in the real world so in the digital world, this policy should not change.  Users must be smart in using not only their phones, their data but also in what information they enter into Passbook.

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About the Author

Bill Martens

A.P.P.L.E. Chairman of the Board and Club president -- Bill worked for the founder, Val J. Golding and A.P.P.L.E. from 1981 to 1982. In 1999, he began archiving the materials which were distributed and sold by A.P.P.L.E.. That project led to the group that remained of A.P.P.L.E. Bill was involved in the financial industry in Tokyo and has over 20 major office infrastructure projects to his name. In March 2001, he retired to write books and to spend more time pursuing personal interests. As the president of the users group, Bill is in charge of distribution of Call-A.P.P.L.E. magazine as well as the organization of this web site. Bill currently resides in Tokyo, Japan and Shelton, Wa splitting time between the places.