Does the iPhone X’s Face ID Put Your Privacy at Risk?

With current technology, we are left with almost nothing to wish for. A decade ago, the services available to us now would be unfathomable. Today, you can have groceries, a professional massage, or a latte delivered to your door in minutes just by using your smartphone.

Smart Phone Revolution

With the release of the iPhone X, facial recognition software has become a popular topic of discussion. On Apple’s website, the features are described as “some of the most sophisticated technology we’ve ever developed,” including “cameras and sensors that enable Face ID.” However, the continuous development of this type of technology, is accompanied by privacy concerns. Making us wonder if unlocking our phones so easily is really worth it.

Facial recognition in the Samsung Galaxy 8 can be easily manipulated with a photo of the phone’s owner.  Apple claims that such a breach of privacy is not possible with the iPhone X.

The iPhone X’s “True Depth Camera” works by analyzing 30,000 individual points on your face, creating both a facial map and an in-depth image of your face. Apple assures users that facial data for unlocking the iPhone X will only be stored in the phone itself. Yet, thousands of third-party app developers can access to some of this facial data. 

Sharing data with app developers is not alone enough to unlock a phone. Privacy activists though are wary of granting access to something as intimate as your face, to thousands of people.

Concerns about people unlocking your phone or being forced to unlock your phone under duress of law enforcement or an abusive partner are legitimate. There is always the possibility that another person could force you to reveal your four-digit passcode. New technologies  like Face ID and Touch ID  now just make it more feasible.

Case Law

Until there is more case law regarding Face ID, we won’t know its exact legal implications. However, a judging from a recent Minnesota case, technology such as Face ID and Touch ID cannot protect your phone from law enforcement. The case, State vs. Diamond, ruled that, when a court has issued a warrant allowing police to search a phone, a suspect can be compelled to unlock his phone with his fingerprint. Fingerprints, unlike passcodes, are not protected by the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. 

The court reason that being compelled with a warrant to unlock a phone via Touch ID is similar to being compelled to give a blood sample, and does not require a person to reveal any knowledge that could be considered self-incriminating.

Facial recognition technology is not limited to the iPhone X. Experiments utilize it in order to attempt to reduce airport lines, prevent voter fraud, and provide better quality CCTV. As technology continues to develop, we need to weigh the costs of losing privacy against convenience and accessibility.