iPhone X’s Face ID: Boon or Bane?

/ September 25, 2017/ In Between

Apple launched its new iPhone X a few months after celebrating 10 years of the iPhone. The new phone model has a new facial recognition feature called Face ID. Face ID is the iPhone’s newest security feature. It uses a 3D scan of the user’s face to unlock the phone and authenticate Apple Pay. Although it is a cutting edge technology, this new feature raises questions about privacy and security.


Apple may have thought that Face ID is “the future” of biometrics. The Face ID technology uses tens of thousands infrared dots on your face and it projects itself and uses an infrared camera to see how these are distorted to get a 3D map of your face. This employs a multi-modal approach combining fingerprint, face, iris, pupillary, and perhaps blink or live detection (every wrinkle, blemish, and freckle combined) to improve the overall resolution and accuracy of the authentication process. Apple has taken the steps to ensure that Face ID can distinguish an individual’s face from a photograph or mask. Therefore, it’s not going to be easy to spoofed or hacked.


But hackers gonna hack, anyway. Remember when they broke the code of the Touch ID print readers within days after iPhone released those phones in 2013? So the new security feature doesn’t mean that a malicious hacker can’t get into this.


Your face is already out there on social media. People, not only your friends, but even friends of your friends whom you don’t know personally, can see your face. Imagine if a hacker can assemble those pictures of you into a model and then can break into your phone.

Your fingerprints are already out there in the government’s database. You applied for a government ID, say a driver’s license, a social security card, a passport, a bank account and most likely you provided your fingerprints in the process. And once hackers got into these databases, your fingerprints are compromised, too.


Apple has been pushing for convenience in everything they design. Even having that one button is too many. So they want everything to be seamless that they don’t notice the implications on security and privacy. Of course, Apple is doing the safest thing in a way they can. But it seems that biometrics is not the safest of them all.


The 6-digit passcode is almost impossible to guess, given the number of tries Apple offers you. We saw that on the Apple vs. the FBI conflict last year. Also, you can be easily coerced by a mugger or a kidnapper, or even by the police (if they have the warrant) to show your finger or face on an iPhone. You can refuse to give your passcode and implore your rights under the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, but you can’t refuse to show your face or your fingers because they’re there.


By virtue of releasing this technology to millions of people, you’re training them to use their face as a security mechanism. Once we’re used to this process (as we did with the iPhone ten years ago), it’s just a matter of time other tech companies are uploading those faces. Apple may not, but Amazon or Google, or somebody else will, create a database of faceprints. And once it leaks, we’ll be in trouble for privacy and security.

What do you think?

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