The launch of the iPhone X brought along with it a revolutionary unlock feature, known to many as the facial recognition scanner. With the Face ID, the iPhone X users can unlock their phone by utilizing its front camera to scan their unique facial feature. This is a step up from the fingerprint sensor. While it does sound convenient for the users to unlock their phones, there have been some concerns especially voiced by privacy experts regarding the protection of privacy that the device itself provides. Of course, the Face ID prevents people from accessing your phone, but is the data of your facial features protected from going out from your device and falling into the wrong hands? Here, we will take a closer look at the storage of the data of your facial scan, as well as how Apple handles it in its latest smartphone.
Before we even get into the issue, we should address whether the Face ID does provide adequate protection in the first place. Apple claims that the Face ID is secure, as it should be, and that touting internal data shows a very low chance (one in a million) that the phone will unlock with a different person’s face. To unlock the phone, the device stores the user’s face scan inside on a secure enclave. That means your facial data remains inside the device. However, one cannot dismiss the possibility that app developers can, albeit limited, access that data.
The Developing Story
Apple Inc. is now facing yet another conflict with the U.S. federal government as the latter stated that it would force the company to open an iPhone involved in a recent New York drug case. According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the government continues to require the assistance of Apple in accessing the data that is authorized by a search warrant.
In line with this ongoing issue, Apple issued a statement through one of their legal counsels, saying that although disappointed, the company is not surprised by this movement, following what happened a few months ago after they stood firm to their decision not to unlock an iPhone used by one of the two terrorists in an attack in San Bernardino, California, where 14 people were gunned down at a party last December. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified one of the gunmen as Syed Farook who was then using an iPhone 5C. This phone was particularly important to the FBI because it may hold pieces of information that will help them solve the case.
The iPhone privacy promised by Apple doesn’t always work, but the blame for breaches of privacy on the iPhone isn’t exclusively the fault of Apple. A case that illustrates this is the privacy attack by Google on the iPhone.
Back in the spring, Google was accused of bypassing Apple’s security wall in order to spy on iPhone users and build advertising profiles. This lead to recriminations against the search engine giant that it was sleazy and engaged in criminal activity. Many people questioned whether Google was also engaged in spying on Android users.