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article imageApple's Face ID might allow cops to unlock your phone

By James Walker     Sep 13, 2017 in Technology
Apple's new Face ID technology on the iPhone X could make it easier for law enforcement to unlock your phone. The biometric authentication method offers fewer legal protections than a passcode or PIN. There are also concerns it could be bypassed.
Apple unveiled Face ID during its iPhone X event yesterday. It replaces Touch ID and uses 3D depth perception technology to create a mathematical fingerprint of your face. According to Apple, it's faster than a Touch ID fingerprint sensor and is only inaccurate one in a million times.
Face ID's already off to a shaky start though. After first failing to work during Apple's live demo, experts have suggested it may not be as secure as Apple states. The company's touting the convenience of the feature, claiming it makes it much easier to unlock the iPhone as you need only look at the device. This convenience may come at a price.
After the event, conversations on Twitter discussed various methods that could be used to bypass the tech. Although Apple claims Face ID can't be spoofed by a photo, there's speculation over how it will respond to other forced access attempts. It might be possible to unlock a phone using the face of someone who's sleeping, for instance. Because the technology is so easy to use yet also very new, consumers are likely to be wary of it.
Face ID also puts users into a more precarious legal position. Under the Fifth Amendment, people are protected from having to provide law enforcement with self-incriminating information. This covers identification methods such as passwords and PIN codes. It doesn't extend to physical attributes though, such as your face. Since this is something you are rather than something you know, police could oblige you to unlock your phone.
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Search warrants have previously been issued to force people to scan their fingerprint and unlock their phone. A forced unlock attempt using Face ID could be easier, since the only requirement is your face is directed at the display. Whether law enforcement is allowed to get people to unlock Face ID is currently unknown.
For people who aren't concerned with absolute security, Apple insists Face ID is more secure than Touch ID or a PIN. It projects more than 30,000 invisible IR dots onto your face to build a mathematical model of your features. This is then stored in the iPhone's secure enclave for later reference.
Apple said all processing takes place on the device. Its neural network is resilient to gradual changes of appearance, so you won't get locked out as you age or if you wear a different makeup to usual. How Face ID will perform with real users remains to be seen though.
Even if it lives up to its maker's claims, the tech's got a hard time ahead of it. Previous facial recognition systems have given the concept a bad reputation for reliability. Face ID's also got to demonstrate it's a suitable replacement for Touch ID, an authentication method now understood and approved of by many consumers.
More about iphone X, Apple, face id, Devices, Smartphones
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