Debut of facial ID technology sparks controversy

Updated 2017-10-04 15:02:52 Xinhua

The recent launch of the futuristic iPhone X has triggered a hot-button global debate on Facial Identification (Face ID) technology, citing potential safety risks the fledgling technology could pose.

APPLE: FACE ID DEBUT

Having abandoned its most iconic Home button's Touch ID function, iPhone X optimizes its customers' experience by allowing them to unlock their iPhones simply by scanning their faces through the Face ID function.

Concerns over security and privacy were immediately raised since a person's face contains large mounts of private information, which might be exposed in the internet database through Face ID function, adding odds of being the victim of fraud.

"We do not gather customer data when you enroll in Face ID, it stays on your device, we do not send it to the cloud," said Craig Federighi, Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering.

But a bigger worry lies in the possibility of Face ID's being attacked by its owner's picture or other impersonative faces with make-up or masks.

"Your passcode can be hacked, but your face is yours and yours alone," Apple Inc responded, adding that Apple X is designed to resist spoofing by photos or masks.

"Face ID is enabled by the TrueDepth camera, which projects and analyzes more than 30,000 invisible dots to create a precise depth map of your face," according to a statement of Apple Inc.

Inevitably, of course, twins or people who look naturally alike can be a potential problem for iPhone X.

But Apple Inc has stressed that with Touch ID, Apple's fingerprint technology, the chance that a random person could unlock your phone with his or her fingerprint is one in 50,000, while with Face ID, it is one in one million, which makes it so secure that you can use it with Apple Pay and check out with just a glance.

"With just a glance? So the fraud can just install a payment machine inside a public mirror, and people will be paying for whatever he buys when they look at themselves in the mirror?" asked a customer.

Perhaps not that easy. For additional security, Face ID is attention aware, meaning it unlocks your iPhone X only when you look toward the device to make sure you are actively trying to use it, heading off chances of being hacked in such situations as taking a nap in public.

Over this function, some netizens come up with more practical concerns saying that "the lack of any fingerprint reader could cause problems for blind people who can't focus their eyes on anything."

If you are blind or vision impaired, Federighi said, you may just turn off the "attention detection" feature at a lower level of overall security.

Moreover, a netizen called Kandee Johnson said, "I'm not sure how the iPhone X face recognition will distinguish between me with make-up and without make-up. Because the difference is real."

And, more seriously, what about cosmetic surgery? Netizens are also showing deep concerns for China's internet celebrities and those South Korean beauties, who have extremely similar faces after accepting cosmetic surgery with the same aesthetic trend.

Apple explained by saying, "Once it knows you, it knows you," adding that the A11 Bionic chip uses machine learning to recognize changes in your appearance as you change hair styles, grow a beard, wear sunglasses, wear a hat, or have plastic surgery.

How about people who either cover their faces for religious or professional reasons? Will Face ID system recognize them?

Apple made a response saying that Face ID is not going to be a viable option for people who wear a mask for work or wear a niqab, which means they would need to use a passcode.

"This limitation is similar to Touch ID, which simply don't work if you wore gloves or had wet hands," Federighi said.

In other tricky scenarios as being asked by a thief or your wife to hand over your device, you can "quick disable" Face ID by gripping either volume button plus the power button, holding them a little while to get back the passcode authentication.

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