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I'm looking to get a new android phone, but many seem to have fingerprint scanners, often as part of the main button.

I don't want a fingerprint scanner, because I don't want to have to worry about the possible ("I hope they've done this right") security implications (where it's stored and if the memory is secured correctly, or whether it can read my fingerprint even when I've not set it up to...). Therefore I'm wondering if there's a way to prevent my fingerprint from being scanned even when I need to use that button (so the button still needs to work!). Would a piece of insulation tape that covers the button suffice? I've seen conflicting information about it, and none from any official source; I don't know where to start looking!

I don't know if how the scanner is implemented varies by phone, which might mean I need to make the question more specific.

I am surprised that this doesn't seem to have been asked already, but I couldn't find it ("fingerprint" is used in too many contexts!), so apologies if it is a duplicate or I'm in the wrong place!

  • "even when I need to use that button" -- for most Android devices, it is not a button, and therefore it has no use other than for scanning fingerprints. – CommonsWare Oct 17 '17 at 12:54
  • Even if you don't register the fingerprint, there's a chance that they can still get the fingerprint data because we are touching that at least thousand times. So, if I were you, I would probably remove the fingerprint hardware component along with any other biometric recognition component such as face recognition. Why You Should Not Use Smartphone Fingerprint Readers, 'State of Surveillance' with Edward Snowden – DxTx Sep 8 '18 at 17:24
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Not registering your fingerprint stops anyone accessing it by this means. That does not seem like your main concern though.

If you are worried the device will still read and send your print somewhere I think you have bigger security concerns.

There are plenty of Android devices without a FS, and a few that have it completely separate.

The Pixel was it on the back and it is only used for FS.

Would a piece of insulation tape that covers the button suffice?

It would fall off all the time, if you really, really wanted to block off an existing button multiple coats of opaque nail polish (with a metal flake is even better) is your best bet, it will eventually wear off as well though (you could also adds layers of lacquer. All this does seem extreme though.

On some Android devices you could also bypass (or just break) the FS data connector. The implications of this would vary from device to device, it may brick some it may be fine on others. it would also require research on the individual device to find out which part to break/disable.

  • I was hard-pressed to pick one answer, but as mentioned on the other answer I put off having to do either! I think I'd go for the nail polish if I tried anything. – Jonathan Sep 29 '18 at 20:12
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First of all its a phone with a touchscreen. If you are worried about people stealing your fingerprint by far the easiest way to get it from a smartphone is to lift a print off of the physical device...

Insulation tape should be fine against capacitive sensors (most smartphone fingerprint sensors). If you want to be certain add a layer of copper (or strands of wiring) between the button and the tape (making sure not to leave a fingerprint on the underside of the copper). The sensor measures conductivity at various point. The tape should stop any signal from your finger passing through. Copper would give a differing conducting surface between the tape and reader to ensure all the sensor got was noise.

  • You make a good point about lifting the fingerprint physically, although on a well-used device I'd expect those to be fairly smudged! Not leaving the fingerprint on the copper is definitely a good point; although in the end I gave my old phone a bit more life with an alternative OS. (sorry I failed to respond earlier!) – Jonathan Sep 29 '18 at 20:09
  • @Jonathan You'd be surprised. Its easy enough to read a fingerprint from a tap even when its sat on top of several smudges. – Hector Oct 1 '18 at 7:40

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