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Security & privacy

Is Apple’s FaceID a powerful mass spying tool?

One of the most talked about features of Apple’s upcoming flagship device, the iPhone X, is Face ID. It will replace Touch ID as the biometric security authorization system of the iPhone X. It will be used for a variety of tasks like unlocking the phone, Apple Pay, app purchases and in-app logins.

Click here to read more about how Apple’s Face ID works.

Since the iPhone X has an almost bezel-less screen, it will ditch the home button and subsequently, the fingerprint scanner, and it will move on to a 3-D depth scanning facial recognition system. As expected, this system raises concerns from privacy groups.

Here are some of the privacy issues to consider:

Consumer tracking

Facial recognition is a much more effective tracking tool than fingerprints since it doesn’t require physical contact for identification. Basically, with the right facial recognition software and a camera, advertisers can match a face with a specific profile in public retail spaces everywhere.

Brick and mortar retailers will certainly love to use this kind of technology to track consumer patterns even in-store, adding further to the myriad of data they can sell to advertisers.

Forced unlocking

Although Apple said that for Face ID to work, the owner needs to “stare at the phone.” This means it requires your attention to work and with your eyes open too.

But how easy would it be for someone to just hold your iPhone up to your face and force you to look at it? It can potentially even be simpler than Touch ID since no physical contact with the phone is required.

Thankfully, there appears to be a quick way of disabling Face ID when the need arises. Just grip the buttons on the side of the iPhone X and this will temporarily disable Face ID, requiring the passcode to unlock it.

Government Mass Surveillance

We know that the government wants to increase the use of facial recognition, especially in law enforcement. It has been reported that one in two American adults are already enrolled in a government facial recognition network and at least one in four police departments now has the capability to run face recognition searches.

Although Apple said that the facial recognition data is stored locally on the “secure enclave” of the phone, the potential for abuse cannot be denied. What if the government issues an order to search for specific targets based on Face ID? Will Apple comply and surrender the location data of the gadgets that have matching facial information data?

Senate inquiry

Face ID and its mass adoption truly raise many interesting questions.

With all the privacy concerns that are swirling around it, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, who chairs a Senate privacy committee, wants answers about how Apple’s new FaceID system works.

As a response, Apple said it will release a detailed security “white paper” on FaceID before the iPhone X is released on November 3.

What do you think? Will Face ID open up more privacy and security risks? Drop us a comment!

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