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Major facial recognition flaw makes it easy for someone to snoop on your phone

Out of all the products Google revealed at the 2019 Made by Google event in San Francisco, the Pixel 4 was an undeniable showstopper. The phone’s design and specs had been leaked for some time now, but that didn’t stop Google from surprising attendees with new options and features like gesture recognition. Click or tap to see what else Google revealed about the Pixel 4.

Unfortunately, early adopters of the Pixel 4 discovered a software flaw during Google’s demonstration. The facial recognition engine of the Pixel 4 is missing a critical security feature found on competitors like the iPhone. Without this security measure, anyone with physical access to the device has a shot at unlocking it, as long as you’re nearby and unaware.

If you’re thinking about picking up the Google Pixel 4 as your next handset, here’s why you might want to wait for the phone to get its first security patch.

The Pixel 4 doesn’t care

According to reports from Business Insider, Google has confirmed an issue surrounding the Pixel 4’s facial recognition technology. The facial scan will unlock the device — even if the user’s eyes are closed. Text in the settings surrounding the feature also confirm twins or look-alikes can potentially fool the scan.

This means the phone can be easily unlocked just by holding it up to the face of the owner,  regardless of whether they’re aware. The most obvious misuse here would be scanning the user’s face while they’re sleeping, which Google has also confirmed would happen with the current software.


Related: 5 things from Google’s 2019 product announcement


In response, the company has announced a software fix is on the way. No solid date has been given, but Google pledges to revisit the issue with a software update “in the coming months.”

This security flaw starkly contrasts Apple’s FaceID feature, which performs a face recognition scan just like the Pixel 4. Unlike Google’s offering, Apple’s scan requires the user’s eyes be open to work.

I have a Pixel 4. What should I do for security in the meantime?

Until the software fix is released, Google is recommending alternative methods of authentication for Pixel 4 owners, such as a screen lock PIN.

To set this up, open the Settings application on your phone and select the Security tab. From the Device Security section, tap Screen Lock and select PIN. Here, you’ll be able to enter a 4-digit or longer passcode to protect your phone from intruders.

You can also choose a more complex password by selecting Password on the same page, or Pattern, which enables you to draw a pattern to unlock your phone.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on updates for the Google Pixel 4, and will update this story once the face unlock patch is released. In the meantime, make sure to keep your Pixel somewhere safe while you sleep. You never know when nosy people might use the flaw to their advantage.

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