When Apple demoed the Face ID technology at its September 12 event, fans and experts expressed concerns about many aspects of the facial recognition system. The iPhone X lacks the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which means Face ID is the primary method of authentication and security. Apple has revised its privacy page, published a new support page, and issued a technical white paper in an attempt to address your concerns about the iPhone X Face ID.
If you have evil twins, use the passcode
The tech giant’s six-page white paper titled “Face ID Security” explains how the new technology would work, how secure it is, and what issues you may experience. Apple says the probability of a random person being able to unlock your iPhone X is 1 in 1,000,000, making it far more secure than the Touch ID (1 in 50,000). However, the statistical probability is higher if you have twins or siblings who look like you.
Apple’s worldwide marketing chief Phil Schiller famously joked about evil twins during the keynote address. Apple says if you are concerned about your twins, siblings or anyone with your facial features fooling the iPhone X Face ID, use the passcode. The device can’t be fooled using masks or photos, but if someone’s face has the same features as you, they may be able to slide through.
The 10th-anniversary iPhone still has the passcode as a fallback option. The Face ID automatically goes back to passcode after five failed attempts. Apple said the passcode would still be used if the device has just been restarted or turned on. The iPhone X will require the passcode if it hasn’t been unlocked for more than 48 hours, or if the phone has received a remote lock command.
How the iPhone X Face ID works
The technology confirms your attention by first detecting the direction of your gaze. If you are looking at the phone, it turns to neural networks that are “trained to spot and resist spoofing” to let you unlock the phone with a glance. Even if someone makes a perfect mask capable of fooling the neural networks, the defensive system will still notice it. The facial recognition system adapts to changes in your appearance.
The Face ID doesn’t capture all of your facial data when you set it up for the first time. It creates only a partial version of your face to compare against the future prints. By capturing an incomplete picture, Apple ensures that even if someone extracts all the data, they won’t be able to fully reconstruct your face. So, what aspects of your face does it retain? Apple says there is a random element, so no one knows what is retained.
Setting it up is only the first step. The feature pulls your facial images from successful login attempts occasionally to update its model. That’s how the Face ID adapts to changes such as when you put on glasses, grow a beard, wear contact lenses, or put on a headscarf. It only requires the covering to be transparent to infrared light, and the system should be able to see your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Apple claims the updated images remain on your phone rather than being transferred to a remote server. In case the Face ID fails to recognize the user but the “match quality is higher than a certain threshold and you immediately follow the failure by entering your passcode, Face ID takes another capture” to augment its data with the new representation.
If the iPhone X Face ID fails to work altogether, there is a process called “Face ID Diagnostics” that allows you to reset the enrolment process. However, Apple, not you, will be in full control here. If you try to set up the facial recognition system in diagnostics mode, you’ll have to send enrolled pictures to the company for examination. The whole process will be part of the customer support. It indicates that Apple is going the extra mile to ensure that your data remains safe while the customer support assists you to regain access to your phone if you end up on the wrong side.
The iPhone X Face ID not recommended for children below 13
The Cupertino company says in its white paper that children under 13 years should not use the Face ID. Not many people are going to give their kids a $1,000 phone, anyway. Apple said the “distinct facial features” of children below 13 might not have fully developed. As a result, there is a higher probability of false matches.
Some tricky situations for the iPhone X Face ID
A major concern expressed by security experts is that the law enforcement agencies could force a person to unlock their iPhones against their will. Apple’s white paper describes measures taken against such unlocking attempts. Face ID requires your eyes to be open and staring at the phone to unlock it. However, the Face ID is so fast that even accidentally looking at the device would unlock it. The tech giant says users will be able to disable the facial recognition system by pinching the side buttons. It will put the iPhone X in shutdown mode, after which you’ll have to enter the passcode to unlock.
When you are making payments via Apple Pay, just looking at your phone will not authenticate a transaction. First, you’ll have to double-click the sleep button to “confirm” your intent before holding the iPhone X up to the payment terminal.
Apple also noted that third-party developers will not be given access to the iPhone X’s depth-sensing technology to create their own biometrics. However, the camera API lets them access the measure of how far different elements in an image are from the lens. Apple has also updated its App Store policies to prevent third-party developers from trying to build a standalone authentication feature.
Romeo and Juliet are responsible for the iPhone X production issues
The iPhone X will continue to face supply shortages for months after its November 3 launch. Previously, the rumor mill claimed that the shortage was due to production issues with the OLED panels. However, more recent reports suggest the 3D infrared sensor is to blame for the iPhone X production woes. Sources familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal that the 3D sensor yield rates are far from satisfactory.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the 3D sensor is divided into two modules code-named Romeo and Juliet. The Romeo module projects the infrared light while the Juliet module reads the pattern. The Romeo module is facing production issues. It is taking far more time to assemble than the Juliet components. A large number of Apple fans have skipped the iPhone 8/8 Plus and are waiting for the iPhone X.
Earlier this week, Yuanta Investment Consulting analyst Jeff Pu told Nikkei Asian Review that Apple would be able to produce only 2 million iPhone X units in September and 10 million units in October due to low yield rates for the 3D infrared sensors. Full-scale production is expected to start in mid-October. It means only 12 million iPhone X units will be available at the time of launch in early November.
The iPhone X is a worthy upgrade
The 10th-anniversary iPhone boasts a completely new design with a 5.8-inch all-screen Super Retina display with no physical home button. The phone comes with 3GB RAM and an A11 Bionic processor, which outperformed all Android smartphones in recent benchmark tests. The iPhone X will support augmented reality applications, and has a battery that lasts two hours longer than the iPhone 7 series.
Apple has added a new Portrait Lighting feature to the rear as well as front camera. The new iPhone also gets animated emojis called Animojis. The device will cost you $999 for the 64GB and $1,149 for the 256GB model. Sounds expensive, doesn’t it? But Tim Cook says it’s a bargain even at the $1,000 starting price.