Why iPhone X’s Face ID facial recognition is cool and creepy

“When Apple Inc. unveiled its new iPhone X this week, there was plenty of interest in the new, sharper display, wireless charging, upgraded camera and stratospheric price tag,” Alex Webb writes for Bloomberg Businessweek. “But the feature that really got people talking was the phone’s 3-D facial recognition system.”

“It is meant to allow you to log in at a glance and to make your phone more secure,” Webb writes. “But some have concerns about the implications of a technology company mapping millions of people’s faces, and how that might be abused by companies and governments.”

MacDailyNews Take: Some who don’t understand even the basics of Apple’s Face ID.

The facial mapping information stays on your device, ensconced within the Secure Enclave.

All saved facial information is protected by the secure enclave to keep data extremely secure, while all of the processing is done on-device and not in the cloud to protect user privacy. — Apple Inc.

“Samsung Electronics Co.’s newest smartphones offer face recognition, but in a form that it says is less secure than a PIN or password,” Webb writes. “Since the handset lacks a 3-D scanner, it relies purely upon the appearance of the face. Some people have managed to fool it with photos of the phone’s owner.”

MacDailyNews Take: Now to be fair, this is only because Samsung make half-assed garbage designed to rope in the ignorati.

Apple’s “Face ID,” Webb writes, “uses a camera in conjunction with a 3-D scanner to not just record an image but measure in detail the contours of facial features. A dot projector mounted in the top of the handset beams 30,000 invisible points onto the user’s face to create a 3-D map, which is then read by a neighboring infrared camera. When you unlock your phone, infrared light is beamed at your face to help it tell it’s you even when it’s dark.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yeah, so, despite Bloomberg’s headline, there’s nothing creepy about Apple’s Face ID.

Apple Face ID is facial recognition done right.

Apple: Just squeeze the iPhone X if you’re forced into a Face ID unlock – September 15, 2017
Gripping buttons on both sides of iPhone X disables Face ID – September 14, 2017
Police: Apple’s new Face ID technology will make it harder for authorities to bypass enhanced security – September 13, 2017
U.S. Senate Democrat Al Franken wants Apple to provide more information on Face ID facial recognition technology – September 13, 2017


  1. Gattica, Demolition Man, The Avengers…

    All those movies (and more) with retinal scans made an assumption about the way people would be authenticated for entry into some secret location. Looks like they got it wrong.

    Leave it to Apple to define a methodology for secure access. And this is just the first iteration, which has a reported error rate of 1 in 1,000,000.

    1. Is 1 in a million good enough in a world of billions? The chances may be biased higher due to similar facial features clumping in certain locations. (e.g. I don’t expect a person of African descent to have similar facial features as a European or Asian)

      1. Yes, Schiller mentioned something along the lines of the ratio being higher in your own genetic group, so the 1 in a million stat is Apple marketing BS. So in your own country is it 1 in 100,000, 1 in 10,000? Consumers should know.

        1. Do what? The phone can sit in front of your face for three days and nothing will happen unless you stare at it. You may not need the presence of mind to squeeze two buttons before parting with your phone, but surely you’ll know not to look at it unless you want to unlock it?

          1. Squeeze the phone, since the link in the post I was replying to was the topic. If you’re pickpocketed I doubt you would not be averse to facing the person tapping your shoulder at which time they could easily have the phone in your face with your eyes open.

            How long does the phone need to identify you anyway? I was under the impression a quick glance and a finger slide up on the screen would be sufficient.

            1. I double dog dare a pickpocket to hold my phone up in front of my face! An armed robber might get away with it, but you wouldn’t refer to him as just a pickpocket.

            2. In order to unlock the phone, you have to actually look at it. Based on the demo during the presentation, it took about 2 seconds to unlock.

              In the most implausible situation that a pickpocket successfully pulled your phone out of your bag/pocket and, rather than run with the phone, taps you on the shoulder and puts your own phone in your face, all you need is a bit of quick thinking to understand what is going on and to look away from the phone, if nothing else. Quite many people will likely try to snatch it from from the thief’s hand (assuming he is unarmed).

              The likelihood of someone managing to swipe your phone and then have you unlock it by looking directly at it is truly negligible.

            3. 2 seconds seems long for something that is advertised to be the replacement for TouchID and important for ‘quick’ purchasing with ApplePay..

              As for pickpocketing, I would think the victim would not realize immediately (assuming a good pickpocket) that his/her phone was missing. Give a few moments with the pickpocket returning to the clueless victim and then claiming a problem with the iPhone he/she is holding has the victim look at the iPhone. A second or so and the pickpocket will just run with the iPhone locked or unlocked. Victim is out of a device in either case.

              2 things I have observed of pickpockets is !) victim rarely realizes their property is gone till later 2) they are very quick with reflex and running.

              Personally I find it useful to think of what may be possible so users’ are not as unguarded and reduce the chances that those unfortunate events do occur. 😀

    1. Then what’s to keep the cops to force your thumb on the finger sensor? If it’s restarted it would require a passcode, just like Touch ID. And if you shut your eyse and refuse to look at the phone it won’t unlock.

  2. I wonder… (I am showing my ignorance here…) – does an error rate of 1 in 1,000,000 mean that we all have 7500 potential dopplegangers (at least from a standpoint of the 30,000 dots projected on the face currently by the Face ID system)? As the processing power improves and more dots could be added, will this (I assume) bring down the error rate? Would it be logical to assume that, at some point, adding additional points would add no extra accuracy (80/20 rule)? This question is just for interest sake – obviously, 1 in a million already means random access to the iPhone by someone is supremely unlikely, from a practical standpoint.

    1. I agree the possibility exists and the chances may be higher since certain facial features tend to ‘clump’ with ethnic groups. But compared to TouchID which takes less points there are probably fewer valid ‘hits’.

  3. I wonder how ‘small’ your image can be for it to still recognize the user. e.g. you have a friend holding the phone up and you stand a little behind and full face visible over the shoulder.

  4. The article goes on into some other stupidity as well. Point 4 asks about a downside, and refers to Federighi’s “fail” ad the demo. It then infers that unlocking with a PIN is a hassle. It isn’t. And speed and accuracy will make or break the user experience. Of course it will! And this isn’t some SameSong hodgepodge of crap software – it will be great.

    Point 5 then talks about bad actors (including the government) getting ahold of your faceprint. My two cents – they won’t get it from this device, as Apple has proven that they secure this well. They likely could reproduce it easily, though, with what you have posted to FaceBook and Google already, and those organizations would be more than happy to sell it to them.

    If you are concerned about user experience on an iPhone, it is time you gave one an honest try.

    If you are concerned about your online security, you had best not be using anything *but* Apple technology.

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