Source: Apple

What’s Missing from iPhone X Face Recognition?

By Leonardas Marozas

After Apple’s presentation about the new iPhone X, everyone on social media was excited. With the new face recognition feature Face ID, cyber security experts started some heated conversations as well.

How does this technology work and is it secure?

Is it an innovation?

To understand this feature, you need to make sure you know the previous iterations of it. In fact, it’s not particularly a breakthrough. Samsung Galaxy had it and was not too successful. Showing a selfie to the program worked just as well as presenting it with a real face.

Every year we see more advancement in biometrics. Currently, the techniques that this industry uses are fingerprinting and facial recognition. There are specific cases where iris recognition is widespread. However, this method is relatively new, requires user cooperation and is not common in public.

How does it work?

Apple removed fingerprint recognition from iPhone X and replaced it with facial recognition. Statistics, provided by Apple without much explanation, stated that fingerprint recognition has 1/50000 accuracy, while face recognition – 1 / 1000000. In other words – there is one in a million chance that somebody might unlock the phone without the owner’s knowledge.

These odds sound quite positively, especially when using additional safety layers. It’s the same rate as guessing a 6 digit passcode. You have to keep your eyes open while it does an in-depth analysis. Simply having a photo of a user won’t allow you to unlock the phone.

The program stores data locally, so there are almost no issues regarding users’ privacy. However, that would be a strange selling point, since we show our face all the time to all the people that meet us. A face is not as private as a social security number.

Of course, you can find some ridiculous advice as well that tells you to keep your eyes closed if someone tries to steal your phone because then they won’t be able to unlock it just flashing at your face.

Does it actually work though?

All of that sounds good in theory. The technology shows promising results while experimenting with it in a laboratory. As we can see from the video above, it’s not necessarily good in practice. Even though we wait until Apple starts shipping iPhone X in November, we still need some extensive research of the technology while it is used in the real world scenarios.

Apple states that their technology will continuously learn and there will be no problem to be identified while wearing glasses, sunglasses, growing a beard, having a hat on or in other day-to-day scenarios. We should also be thinking about lighting conditions, cultural requirements, traumas or emotions that change your expressions.

For real answers to these questions, we still need to wait for thorough security analysis of technology and methods used. What we know today is that Apple is usually silent about their technological decisions. It might take time. For real answers, we need more data and some real proof.

Our recommendation: do not get too excited and wait until the actual results are in.