Apple’s Craig Federighi explains how Face ID works on iPhone X

“Face ID is easily the most hot-button topic to come out of Apple’s iPhone event this week, notch be damned,” Matthew Panzarino reports for TechCrunch. “As people have parsed just how serious Apple is about it, questions have rightly begun to be raised about its effectiveness, security and creation. To get some answers, I hopped on the phone with Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi.”

“When it comes to customers — users — Apple gathers absolutely nothing itself. Federighi was very explicit on this point. ‘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 for training data,’ he notes,” Panzarino reports. “One of the primary questions about Face ID that has come from many quarters is how Apple is going to handle law enforcement requests for facial data. The simple answer, which is identical to the answer for Touch ID, by the way, is that Apple does not even have a way to give it to law enforcement. Apple never takes possession of the data, anonymized or otherwise. When you train the data it gets immediately stored in the Secure Enclave as a mathematical model that cannot be reverse-engineered back into a ‘model of a face.’ Any re-training also happens there. It’s on your device, in your Secure Enclave, period.”

I also quizzed Federighi about the exact way you “quick disabled” Face ID in tricky scenarios — like being stopped by police, or being asked by a thief to hand over your device,” Panzarino reports. “‘On older phones the sequence was to click 5 times [on the power button], but on newer phones like iPhone 8 and iPhone X, if you grip the side buttons on either side and hold them a little while — we’ll take you to the power down [screen]. But that also has the effect of disabling Face ID,’ says Federighi. ‘So, if you were in a case where the thief was asking to hand over your phone — you can just reach into your pocket, squeeze it, and it will disable Face ID. It will do the same thing on iPhone 8 to disable Touch ID.’ That squeeze can be of either volume button plus the power button.”

Tons more in the full article – recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: Federighi also revealed that Apple will be releasing a security white paper on Face ID closer to the release of the iPhone X which will go even farther than even Panzarino’s very comprehensive report, answering just about anything that anybody outside of Apple needs to know about Face ID and its inherent security.

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. I find it amusing how some people are saying that face recognition is no big deal and Android smartphones have had it for years. If that’s the case, then why are so many people making a big stink out of Apple’s 3D Face ID. Why worry about it now if Android smartphones have had it for years?

    Whenever Apple comes out with something new it’s always tin-foil hat time and all the a$$-holes come out of hiding to have their anti-Apple day in the sun. Boy, those people sure make me want to puke.

    1. It’s not new. Intel has had the RealSense Camera for years now. That’s not to say Apple doesn’t probably have their improvements to the concept. They had more time, and the benefit of competing technology. Easier to surpass a target when you have it before you.

      1. Yes. Totally agree. And a lump of coal is basically the same thing as a diamond. Right. We all “get” the bias against Apple is some quarters. Same old, same old…

        1. This is a matter of historical fact, not opinion.

          A lump of coal is not a diamond. If Apple discovered that you need to apply enormous pressure to coal to make it a diamond, they would have been first and deserved the credit you wish to attribute them. They did not. Perhaps they added value, I already said that, but it’s not of the blind praise you desire.

        2. Everything Apple has done, someone else has done first. That is what people like you keep saying. Except it is not _really_ true. Apple has done it right/efffectively/better. I am tired of hearing it.

        3. Okay, okay, you’ve got me. Apple is a shameless copier. They add absolutely nothing of value to anything they do. Never have. I would agree they are doomed. /s

          Why are you so cynical ? Why are you even on this website? it is a website for Apple fans. Why don’t you go find an Apple cynics website.

        4. Ya, I know. This IS he Apple cynics website. Nazis, too. Sad.

          Just tell me when I should sell my shares. If I had listened to this crowd, I would have sold them ages ago. You know, because Apple is doomed…

        5. Sheesh. This string started because you said in a post above “it is not new”. Except now you appear to be saying “well, okay, maybe it is improved”. You are splitting hairs, being difficult, an picking a fight. What is the difference between “new and improved” and “not new but improved” ? I think you are talking out of both sides of your mouth. What a maroon !

        6. Totally disagree. There is no reason for you to diminish things _you_ deem to be marginal improvements. The market should decide what is a “new” product versus a boring, almost worthless “improvement”. Ya, ya, ya, you will say claim cell phones already existed …and Apple only “improved them to an almost worthless degree”. You are an idiot. Ciao for now.

      2. They may have had teh camera but not the software!

        Anyone can trick the face id equivalent on an android device – no one can trick face id on an apple device.

        And that my friend is THE difference!

      3. In a binary checkbox-type world you are correct, others have implemented Face ID.

        In a nuanced world, Apple’s implementation is so head and shoulders above the others that it’s simply astounding.

    2. Some people may be using the opportunity to take swipes at Apple, but the reality is that Apple is a market leader and its technology will be widely adopted. Cutting-edge Apple tech has far greater implications for society and consumers than the latest product from Samsung or Google.

    3. Magnificent (48) point. Also, why isn’t Android security part of the headlines everyday? Take all the features out of the smart phone discussion and Apple’s security vs others is one/only reason for superiority, imho.

    1. Developers have access only in the sense that they can request authentication, just like they already do with touch ID. All they get back is a pass/fail. Nothing else. Apple is impressively consistent with these types of issues.

  2. In many instances I put my phone next to me on
    a surface like a restaurant table, or a living room end table or at a work desk. Will Face ID constantly be scanning for faces in these scenarios? If it finds my face will it unlock my phone without me knowing? If a notification comes in and I glance at the phone will the phone automatically unlock? Will I have to constantly check my phone to see if it is unlocked or locked?

      1. Thanks for the answer. That is one extra step than the fingerprint unlock in the notification example (notification comes in, phone automatically wakes, and fingerprint unlocks phone), but it is justified to prevent random Face ID unlocks when glancing at the notification.

        Regarding having to hold the phone for Face ID to work: On another forum some posters were discussing how Face ID can detect faces at extreme angles. If this is the case, does it still need to be picked-up from a work desk, restaurant table, etc. for Face ID to be invoked, or will just a tap on the screen or a press on the power button while the phone remains of the surface suffice?

        1. You think the sensors, cameras, and TrueDot projector in an iPhone …that is placed nearby, like on a restaurant table …will constantly be scanning for your face?

          If you just think about it for a moment you should be able to answer the original poster’s question for yourself. Of course, I might be wrong…

    1. As Federighi himself explained this week on The Talk Show podcast, on the iPhone X, just briefly hold a button on each side of the phone. This let you do it discreetly as you, for example, take it out of a pocket. Doing this disables face ID until a password is entered, in the same way that restarting the phone will.

  3. Step 1: pick up phone and stare at it
    Step 2: when facial recognition fails, type in your password
    Step 3: when you can’t remember the password, pick up the backup phone and try again
    Step 4: tell everyone that the first phone worked as intended but was set up wrong even though supposedly face recognition can only be used for a single person no matter how many people handle it, which means that if this is true then the iPhone X is useless in busy households or for people who share phones

    1. “…….even though supposedly face recognition can only be used for a single person no matter how many people handle it,……”

      I don’t think you understand!

      A “little” knowledge can indeed be dangerous as you have just demonstrated.

    2. That’s not what happened. Other people handling it caused it to go in the safe mode that requires a password, in same way that several failed Touch ID attempts will do.

      It functioned exactly as designed.
      Had Craig thought for a moment he would have realized it, but it’s certainly more than understandable that in a live demo he would not have that presence of mind. Unfortunate, because if he had the demo would have been stronger than intended!

    1. squeeze it (like Federighi said, go read the article) to disable it


      NOTE : thieves can now hold your finger to Touch ID and unlock it,

      they can stick a gun/knife/baseball bat/ninja throwing stars/Pit Bull .. etc to your face to demand your password (even if you own an crap Android) etc etc etc.

      (my point to you and all the other critics… if you fantasize you can go into all kinds of scenarios… )

      Face ID is an EXTRA option not available on any Android , Win etc phone (their Face recognition systems can be fooled by photos etc)

      BUT if you don’t want Face ID
      you can get the 8 plus which has about the same internal specs and use TOUCH ID.
      It’s not as if Apple didn’t build ANOTHER best phone in the world in the 8 plus.

      what is your point?

  4. Apple’s innovation with Face Id is the trust of their customers that they won’t misuse facial data.

    Any other vendor wants to take a photo of my face for security? Not a chance.

  5. My main qualm with FaceID on the iPhone X is that they list a number of scenarios where people can’t use it (e.g. if blind) in which case you have to fall back on a traditional password. I think it looks great, but I can see there being improvements or changes to how it’s implemented. A future device with FaceID and TouchID to be used in tandem or as usage dictates seems like a distinct possibility. Based on the fact that TouchID and FaceID are offered as much as a convenience as they are for security, and I don’t find TouchID remotely inconvenient I’m prepared to wait for the technology to be integrated into the standard product lines. It will be interesting to see if they integrate it into Macs.

    1. Blind can people can use it, but what many will not be able to do is use the part that requires eye contact. For those people that can be switched off. The facial recognition part still works, though obviously without same level of security.

      Perhaps Apple is considering some other secondary requirement such as a specific facial gesture.

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