If you hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible—and I do—then you believe that there will come a point in time where every man and woman, boy and girl, will be faced with the decision of accepting the Mark of the Beast. This mark will control your ability to buy and sell according to the description in Revelation 13:16-18 (ESV):
Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.
Yesterday Apple announced the iPhone 5S which, in addition to the typical speed and functionality enhancements, features a fingerprint scanner built into the home button and a new software authentication system called Touch ID. You simply touch the home button, and the phone instantly recognizes the user (or other users you trust and have enter their fingerprint) and unlocks the phone. You can also use it to authenticate purchases, rather than enter your password.
My wife and I had a long discussion about this last night. We’re big Apple fans, and I usually stand in line with the other Apple drones on launch day, camping out to be among the first to get my hands on their goods.
I’m not sure about this one, though.
Here’s what I think so far: this isn’t the Mark of the Beast. From what I understand of Revelation 13, the Antichrist will come to power first, the world will follow him, and he will institute the mark as part of his authoritarian rule. So a fingerprint scanner on a phone it ain’t.
But it’s a step. And it’s unnerving because when I was a kid, the explanations of Revelation sounded like science fiction—so detached from the reality of the world around me that it seemed impossible. Not anymore.
But I’m also not so sure that Apple is the evil one, here (or at least not the only one). As I was doing research this morning on Touch ID, I came across an article featuring Heather Adkins, Google’s Manager of Information Security:
“Our relationship with passwords are done [at Google]…passwords are dead.”
That’s a pretty bold statement. So what, then, will we be using for security? From the CNET article:
Although Adkins didn’t offer any real specifics on how Google will innovate beyond today’s security, she did say the company is experimenting with hardware-based tokens as well as a Motorola-created system that authenticates users by having them touch a device to something embedded, or held, in their own clothing. “A hacker can’t steal that from you,” she said.
Now, on the surface that seems pretty innocuous. After all, many of us use hardware tokens as security devices at work each and every day. But you need to watch Google closely here. Or, more specifically, Motorola, which Google just purchased. Motorola is on the forefront of authentication technology, and has recently announced two products under development in their labs. The first is a pill that is ingested each day and powered by the acids in your digestive system. The pill emits a signal that authenticates the user’s identity to the phone. Weird. The second, however, is slightly more disturbing.
The image above is Motorola’s other development, an authentication “biostamp,” or electronic tattoo. Announced at the D11 conference in May, Motorola sees this inexpensive silicone tattoo as a viable alternative to current passwords.
“…it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark…”
And remember Google’s justification, “A hacker can’t steal that from you.”
I’m not an “Endtimes Scholar” by any stretch. But it’s abundantly clear where all this is heading, and the groundwork that is being laid. Maybe Apple’s Touch ID is completely innocent. And maybe Google is living by their “Don’t be evil” motto. But at some point, Christians will have to decide where they’ll draw the line, and at what point they’ll stop funding the companies that will eventually be the ones turning their name over for failing to take the mark.
It’s something to think about between now and the new iPhone’s release on September 20th.
What do you think? Is Touch ID safe? Should Christians embrace this technology? At what point do Christians have a moral responsibility to say “no” to advances such as these? Let me know in the comments.