Technology

Scary! iPhone X Face Data Can Easily Be Accessed By Third-Party Developers

Face ID is one of the headline features of the iPhone X. It’s fast, it’s accurate, and it just works! When Apple announced the facial recognition system, privacy advocates hailed the company’s decision to keep the iPhone X face data on the device itself rather than on remote servers. However, there have always been concerns about the Face ID and how it could be used by unscrupulous marketers, law enforcement agencies, and data brokers.

Apple iPhone X Face Data
Image Source: Apple.com (screenshot)

How secure is your iPhone X face data?

Apple tried to address the privacy concerns by releasing a white paper on Face ID in September. But the company didn’t tell people that it was giving third-party developers access to at least some part of the iPhone X face data. App developers can access your facial data to “build entertainment features,” reports Reuters. These features may include allowing a video game character to mirror your facial expressions or pinning a 3D mask on your face for selfies.

As per a contract seen by Reuters, developers can take the iPhone X face data and store it on their own servers. Apple gives them access to the TrueDepth camera to capture a map of your face and “a stream of more than 50 kinds of facial expressions.” It means they can monitor when you blink, frown, smile, or even raise an eyebrow. All they have to do is seek your permission and promise not to sell your facial data to third parties.

Privacy advocates such as the Center for Democracy and Technology and the American Civil Liberties Union have raised concerns over the “remote storage” of the iPhone X face data. Privacy groups are especially worried about how effectively Apple will be able to enforce the terms of its contract. Apple’s enforcement tools include the audit of apps, pre-publication reviews, and the threat of removing the developer from the App Store. But it doesn’t review the source code of every single app. And there are more than two million apps in the App Store.

The Cupertino company’s enforcement tools are not enough to monitor how developers use your data after they have transferred it to remote servers. Of course, they won’t be able to unlock your phone because the unlocking process requires the mathematical representation of your face rather than the visual map.

If the unscrupulous marketers get their hands on the iPhone X face data, it will be a goldmine for them. They will be able to track how you respond to a piece of content or advertisement. They could see whether you smiled after seeing an ad. There is concrete proof that Apple hasn’t always been able to enforce its own rules on app developers. Back in 2012, an app called Path was found to be saving users’ contact lists to its private servers. Most developers don’t even read Apple’s long and boring agreements.

Face ID is far more secure than Touch ID, with only one in a million chance that a random person would be able to unlock your iPhone X. Many reviewers have got their hands on the anniversary iPhone, and they have been trying to fool the Face ID technology with large sunglasses and all kinds of clothing, but without success. However, Face ID has delivered mixed results in “twin tests.”

Delivery dates improve for many pre-order customers

The iPhone X goes on sale today in more than 50 countries. When Apple began accepting pre-orders for the device, delivery estimates quickly lengthened to 5-6 weeks. However, many buyers have reported that the delivery dates have improved for them as Apple ramps up production. People who were originally expecting their units at the end of November are now reporting delivery dates as early as next week.

If your order was originally supposed to arrive in December, it might arrive in November itself. According to MacRumors, shipping times in China, Australia, the UK, and many other countries have improved from 5-6 weeks to 3-4 weeks. Apple is working hard to fix the production issues that have been plaguing the iPhone X. During the company’s latest earnings call, Tim Cook said production was “going well, we’re doing more each week.”

Apple just had an impressive quarter

Despite concerns about weak iPhone 8 and 8 Plus sales, Apple reported a blockbuster quarter on November 3. The company estimates revenues of $84 billion to $87 billion for the current quarter. It indicates that Apple expects strong iPhone X demand through the holiday season. The iPhone X pre-orders “have already been very strong,” said Tim Cook. The Apple CEO “can’t predict” when the company will be able to achieve a balance in supply and demand.

For the September quarter, the Cupertino company posted $52.6 billion in revenues and $10.7 billion profits. Apple sold 46.7 million iPhones during the quarter. The “other products” category that includes the AirPods, Apple TV, and Apple Watch witnessed a 36% jump in revenue to $3.2 billion. Sales in China finally returned to growth, rising 12% to $9.8 billion during the quarter. Apple ended the September quarter with $269 billion in cash and cash equivalents.

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