Google Could End Passwords Forever With This Innovation

A new innovation from Google could either be a futuristic life-improver or a creepy method of biometric surveillance, depending on how seriously you take their “Don’t be evil” company credo.

The tech giant will soon test an initial version of Project Abacus, which could end passwords forever. The central thesis of the project, which was revealed last year, is that humans are kind of crappy at remembering passwords. We are, however, good at displaying behavioral signs that we are indeed ourselves. Abacus uses data like your typing and speech patterns as well as information gathered from your phone’s sensors to develop a “Trust Score,” or a probability that you are who you claim to be. Google hopes to hand the Trust Score API to developers and allow them to judge if it’s sufficiently secure to cut out your PIN, password, or any other verification system in place.

"We have a phone and these phones have all these sensors in them, why couldn’t it just know who I was so I don’t need a password, I should just be able to work," Google ATAP (Advanced Technologies and Projects) head Dan Kaufman said during a video filmed at I/O Friday.

The initial rollout will occur with "several large financial institutions" starting June. Assuming things go as planned Google would hand over the API to developers by year’s end.

While Apple already does a similar thing with a fingerprint sign-in to iOS, the differentiator would be that Google could use this to unlock apps as well as the phone itself. That has potentially huge consequences including the elimination of two-factor authentication, the likelihood that you won’t have to change bank passwords every few months, and meaning that you have a good excuse for why your friends can’t play on your phone. Obviously it has disturbing potential. If Google or your bank has your behavioral data down to such a granular level, what might they be able to do with it? As always, we’ll be asked to trade a modicum of security for a modicum of convenience.

Watch Kaufman's talk below.

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