Apple’s iPhone X brings face recognition (and fears) to the masses

“Apple will let you unlock the iPhone X with your face — a move likely to bring facial recognition to the masses, along with concerns over how the technology may be used for nefarious purposes,” Rob Lever reports for AFP. “Apple’s newest device, set to go on sale November 3, is designed to be unlocked with a facial scan with a number of privacy safeguards — as the data will only be stored on the phone and not in any databases.”

“Unlocking one’s phone with a face scan may offer added convenience and security for iPhone users, according to Apple, which claims its ‘neural engine’ for FaceID cannot be tricked by a photo or hacker,” Lever reports. “Apple is the first to pack the technology allowing for a three-dimensional scan into a hand-held phone.”

“But despite Apple’s safeguards, privacy activists fear the widespread use of facial recognition would ‘normalize’ the technology and open the door to broader use by law enforcement, marketers or others of a largely unregulated tool,” Lever reports. “‘Apple has done a number of things well for privacy but it’s not always going to be about the iPhone X,’ said Jay Stanley, a policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union. ‘There are real reasons to worry that facial recognition will work its way into our culture and become a surveillance technology that is abused.'”

“Apple’s Face ID is likely to touch off fresh legal battles about whether police can require someone to unlock a device. Face ID ‘brings the company deeper into a legal debate’ that stemmed from the introduction of fingerprint identification on smartphones, according to ACLU staff attorney Brett Max Kaufman,” Lever reports. “Kaufman says in a blog post that courts will be grappling with the constitutional guarantees against unreasonable searches and self-incrimination if a suspect is forced to unlock a device.,” Lever reports. “US courts have generally ruled that it would violate a user’s rights to give up a passcode because it is ‘testimonial’ — but that situation becomes murkier when biometrics are applied.”

Read more in the full article here.

And then there’s CNBC, with a similar article under this awfully misleading headline: “There may be a privacy risk lurking beneath that shiny new iPhone, and it’s written all over your face.”

“This week, Apple began taking pre-orders for its $1,000 iPhone X,” Erin Barry reports for CNBC. “Along with that hefty price tag, customers will face a new unlocking technology that’s raising concerns over security and privacy: Instead of a thumbprint, the iPhone X will take a 3D scan of your face.”

“Apple claims the facial data will only be stored locally on the phone, and not compiled on company servers,” Barry reports. “However, that’s not the case with other companies that use similar technology.”

“Right now Facebook is using the technology to detect who’s in your photos. But April Glaser, a technology reporter with Slate, warned that the database could be used in other ways in the future,” Barry reports. “‘Certainly in a few years, we could imagine a scenario where there’s a camera that knows you walked into a store and somehow that’s married to your Facebook activity,’ Glaser told CNBC’s ‘On the Money’ in an interview recently.”

MacDailyNews Take: Not if you don’t have a Facebook account.

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: CNBC is irresponsible and Apple should demand a retraction and public apology.

Beyond CNBC’s hit-whoring, at the core of the issue is the U.S. Constitution:


No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Sometimes the law gets too cute. We shouldn’t leave common sense out of the equation. The process is the same thing. You’re getting access to someone’s most private information by forcing someone to give you the key. — Miami defense attorney David Oscar Markus, May 2016

Ultimately… the U.S. Supreme Court will likely have to weigh in on this issue.MacDailyNews, May 4, 2017

Apple’s ‘cop button’ won’t keep your iPhone safe from the police – August 18, 2017
Florida man sentenced to 180 days in jail for not divulging his iPhone passcode – May 31, 2017
Florida judge orders reality TV actress to unlock Apple iPhone in ‘sextortion’ case – May 4, 2017
Miami sextortion case asks if a suspect can be forced to hand over Apple iPhone password – April 28, 2017
Feckless FBI unable to unlock iPhone, even with a ‘fingerprint unlock warrant’ – May 12, 2016
The Touch ID lock on your iPhone isn’t cop-proof – May 11, 2016
U.S. government wants your fingerprints to unlock your phone – May 1, 2016
Should you disable Touch ID for your own security? – May 9, 2016
U.S. government wants your fingerprints to unlock your phone – May 1, 2016
Virginia police can now force you to unlock your smartphone with your fingerprint – October 31, 2014
Apple’s Touch ID may mean U.S. iPhone 5s users can’t ‘take the fifth’ – September 12, 2013
Apple’s iPhone 5S with biometric identification: Big Brother’s dream? – September 11, 2013

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Groucho” for the heads up.]


  1. If you shut the phone down then when it is restarted the passcode will be required.
    This may be quicker than disabling touch ID. Note there are about 5 steps required to get to the settings for touch ID.

  2. It’s totally unsurprising that in an attempt to write about Apple’s face recognition technology, authors frequently resort to making unflattering comparisons with existing systems which work entirely differently.

    Anyone with a modicum of technical understanding now knows that Apple’s fingerprint scans are encoded and stored within the device and cannot be externally accessed. There were plenty of reports ahead of it’s release suggesting that security agencies would be either able to access your fingerprint from that data, or else use an image of your fingerprint to unlock your iPhone. Both of those scenarios are now known to be untrue, but it hasn’t stopped authors from making pretty well the same silly speculations about face recognition, even though Apple has made it very clear that the facial data is encoded and securely held within the iPhone in much the same way that the fingerprint data is.

    As far as facial recognition by cameras in businesses is concerned, that’s an entirely different matter and it’s something which will need to be regulated by governments or else there could be gross invasions of privacy if deep mining of multiple datasets is linked to people’s movements via face recognition cameras. However none of that has any bearing whatsoever on facial recognition within an iPhone X.

    1. I have always laughed at the people who “tricked” the fingerprint scanner: the same will go with facial recognition. The truth is all you need is off the shelf password decoding software, like every other phone. You still have to have passwords to use fingerprint/facial recognition. The whole point was to make getting into your phone easier because over half the phone owners were not using passwords. What makes Apple way ahead in security is Find My iPhone. That way you can lock your phone if it’s stolen, without any setup. Android can’t do this.

      I also believe Samsung puts out crap fingerprint and facial scanners so people won’t believe in them when Apple comes out with ones that work. I have experienced this.

      About the Government take over of ID, that is another issue that really has nothing to do with Apple.

  3. MDN, you can still be tagged in photos posted on other people’s Facebook accounts, even if you do not have a Facebook account yourself. It is likely almost impossible to remain completely anonymous in most developed countries at this point.

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