Behold, mortals, the arrival of the iPhone X, the latest smartphone by Apple that delivers the latest innovation to the eager hands of the consumers. The phone will ditch the concept of Touch ID fingerprints in favor of facial scanning technology called Face ID. Apple claims that Face ID delivers a much safer and convenient experience for its users, since facial features are far more complex than fingerprints. But it didn’t take long before privacy experts started questioning the change. Is facial recognition truly the next step towards an advanced future free of security breaches, or we are endangering our personal information in exchange for convenience?
Facial Scanning > Fingerprints
Ditching fingerprints for facial scanning brings some exciting new possibilities to the table, while also treading similar ground. Unlike the Galaxy S8 or Note 8, iPhone X utilizes a more accurate stereo measurement of the user’s face instead of the traditional two-dimensional scanning. The system is said to outpace fingerprints in terms of security, since the latter can be fooled in various ways, such as using a piece of tape that has the target’s fingerprint captured on it. Also, the feature is implemented for other purposes, not just unlocking the phone. iPhone owners from now on will use their face to authorize Apple Pay purchases or unlock certain apps.
Facial Scanning in Our Daily Life
It goes without saying that Apple isn’t the first company to introduce facial recognition to the masses, but it only takes one mainstream success to popularize the technology. In China, employees must scan their face to enter authorized levels of an office building, while luxurious hotels in Europe use facial scanning to identify celebrity guests.
U.S. citizens will also most likely run into this technology in airports, at some point. Five airports have already embraced facial recognition in order to reduce waiting times. Passengers are asked to stick their face in front of a camera and then the system browses through the database of people who provided their information and, if a match is found, the person can board the plane. This is considerably more effective than the manual checking.
Privacy Concerns on the Horizon
Although some people welcome this more refined form of biometric scanning, seeing it as a step towards hard-to-fool security measures, there is a large group of people who urge caution before integrating the technology into every aspect of our life. In the case of the iPhone X, it is possible that someone holds the phone in front of the owner’s face to force easy access to its contents. Also, where is the biometric data being stored? In cloud storage that could be hacked, or on the phone? Not to mention companies utilizing facial scanning technology sit on a huge database of sensitive information that could be either stolen or sold.
As we’ve seen with Equifax, leading forces in the industry are proven to be sloppy at protecting the consumer’s precious data. Apple claimed that they don’t intend to share the biometric info with others and they have a history of refusing to hand out their customers’ data to government forces, not to mention the fact that their app store has pretty strong security. But even so, the technology is most likely to be picked up by other companies who may lack Apple’s strong commitment to consumer privacy.
The Future Is Uncertain
But these are just concerns regarding the iPhone X. In broad strokes, facial recognition can be used by more brutal regimes to identify and track advocates of free speech. Additionally, what will we do if someone steals our biometric data? We can change our home, job and name, but not our face (or at least it costs a fortune). Can this feature tell twins apart? What happens if someone suffers an injury that damages their face? How heavily do accessories, hats and lightning effects influence the scanning ability? These are just some of the questions that we don’t have an answer for, because for now biometric scanning is still struggling to gain momentum. But not having a clear answer doesn’t mean we should forget the question, especially if it involves our privacy.