Apple has once again been under the spotlight with the release of the new iPhone X. Their new flagship promised to be something out of this world, but after only a couple of days in the hands of their new owners, there has been a couple of hiccups.
The most alarming hiccup is that of the facial recognition, or face mapping technology that Apple introduced in the iPhone X. It sounds pretty amazing when you think that merely looking at your phone will unlock it. It also sounds amazing that your phone will behave differently when in the hands of a person other than the owner.
So how does face mapping work, and are there any risks involved?
On the front of the device, there is a neat bit of hardware that has the ability to sense depth, and thereby maps the features and contours of your face. The new user has to tilt and rotate his or her face in front of the TrueDepth camera to record his/her biometric features. This is a process that is repeated twice to ensure accuracy. Once the owner’s face is registered the iPhone ‘knows’ that it is the owner looking at the phone and not somebody else.
The problem with new technologies is that they are flawed and the kinks need to be ironed out before it can actually be of any use. Until it is foolproof, there are a number of things that can go wrong. In more than one case, twins were able to unlock each other’s phones. Apple did, however, say that it has 1-in-1 million false acceptance rate, but this number is definitely lower among twins. This raises the question of whether a doppelganger would have the same luck
However, when one puts aside the off chance of someone else unlocking your phone, The TrueDepth scanner takes a highly detailed image of your face, so much so that it can recognize you with even if you decide to grow a beard, cut your hair or even wear sunglasses. The danger lies in the details. Although Apple is keeping the mathematical calculations of your face a secret by storing it on the device itself, the images can still be used.
Marketing companies can utilize the real-time tracking of facial expressions to customize your advertising profile. This leads us to the privacy concerns. Apple has made it very clear that they are aware of the dangers the technology has in terms of privacy, which is why they have set out a number of clauses for developers to follow. But at the rate that new apps are developed, it is hard to imagine how Apple is going to monitor each new app that used TrueDepth technology.
When one considers security, passwords, and passcodes still rank way up there among the safest and most reliable ways to protect your data. That being said, a poorly constructed password does have a fairly good chance of being bypassed if the would-be thief really wanted to gain access to a device. However, it would be way more difficult to unlock an unwilling person’s phone with a well-constructed password, than with a face. A person merely has to look at the phone and the rest is history.
Current US legislation prohibits state agents to force a person to give up a password, but they have the right to ask a person to unlock a device using biometric information. Therefore, Apple will seek to include iOS 11’s quick disable the feature that it currently uses to quickly deactivate fingerprint biometrics.
Probably one of the biggest concerns is that of being unsuspected spied upon. Seeing that the facial recognition hardware has to run continuously, it can potentially also record everything that the user does while watching his screen. It will be able to determine if you are happy or sad, whether you like the content you are viewing on your phone or observe the background and gather information on your domestic location. The possibilities are nearly endless, whatever it sees can potentially be used, it all depends on who uses the information.
Although new technologies are intended to provide us with ways to make our lives easier and more entertaining, it most certainly brings along its own string of concerns and hidden dangers not yet discovered.