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Is Apple giving away your Face data to developers?

Is Apple giving away your Face data to developers?
© Ifeelstock | Dreamstime

Apple's Face ID facial technology is the most groundbreaking feature of the iPhone X and it's most likely going to be the biometric security system of choice for all future iPhones.

From unlocking the phone to cute animated facial tracking "animojis" to Apple Pay and in-app logins, it is now the defining feature that makes the iPhone X the iPhone X, bezel-less notched screen and all. Click here to read more about how Apple's Face ID works.

In fact, iPhone X users swear by Face ID and how it's so much better than Touch ID. But again, privacy concerns still surround Face ID. As with other emerging technologies that Apple introduces to the mass market, it will definitely go mainstream and adopted by millions of users.

With this inevitable mass adoption, it's so important for the public to know what kind of Face ID data iOS developers will really have access to. Read on as we break it down for you.

Apple's Facial Data up for grabs?

According to a report by Reuters, Apple is planning on sharing its Face ID facial mapping data to app developers. This was spotted in Apple's Face ID developer agreement that details what facial recognition data third-party app makers are allowed to have access to.

The agreement suggests that while app developers will have access to the visual mapping data but not the mathematical representation of that facial data that's stored and encrypted within an iPhone X's "secure enclave." (You know, that data that's used to unlock your iPhone X). Apple said that this data is so secure that not even the company's employees can access it.

So what facial data will app developers get? Although they won't be getting the secure data that's used for biometric security, they can still access a rough map of a user's face and 50 facial expressions that can monitor actions like smiles, frowns, eye blinks and mouth movements. This data can then be stored by app developers on their own servers.

Apple's Restrictions

Despite this facial data access, Apple is putting restrictions on how app developers can actually use the information.

First, the data can't be used for advertising or marketing purposes nor can it be sold to analytics firms and data brokers. Second, app developers are banned from creating user profiles derived from face capture data that can be used to identify anonymous users.

App makers are also required to "obtain clear and conspicuous consent" from users before they can use, collect and store facial data and can only be granted access if the app has legitimate uses for it. Apple stresses its strict and rigorous iOS app review system and its user privacy protections. The company said that any misuse of facial data will result in developer bans.

Privacy concerns

The mass adoption of facial recognition and having app developers having access to parts of the data is raising plenty of concerns from privacy protection groups.

The American Civil Liberties Union stated that it is concerned about how Apple can effectively enforce its Face ID privacy guidelines in the App Store and police sneaky developers from abusing the facial data, given that this data can be stored in remote servers.

“The privacy issues around of the use of very sophisticated facial recognition technology for unlocking the phone have been overblown,” Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union told Reuters. “The real privacy issues have to do with the access by third-party developers.”

Is Apple's Face ID a powerful mass spying tool?

Aside from developer access, there are more privacy issues to consider with Face ID. Click here to read and explore more about them.

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