In mid-September, Apple unveiled its new Face ID facial recognition system , which is due to debut with the iPhone X on Nov. 3.
The system lets users unlock their phones just by glancing at them, but has also raised privacy questions and some anxieties over whether someone could force you to unlock your phone by pointing it at your face.
Now, Apple has revealed an in-depth explanation of how the system works – and has admitted young users may struggle.
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Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, announces features of the new iPhone X, including Face ID, at the Steve Jobs Theater on the new Apple campus, in Cupertino The system lets users unlock their phones just by glancing at them, but have also raised privacy questions and some anxieties over the ease with which others unlock a user’s phone.
In a security guide published today, the tech giant also recommends that children under the age of 13, twins and even siblings who look similar do not use Face ID due to the probability of a false match being significantly higher for young children.
‘The statistical probability is different for twins and siblings that look like you and among children under the age of 13, because their distinct facial features may not have fully developed.
The company said for normal users, ‘the probability that a random person in the population could look at your iPhone X and unlock it using Face ID is approximately 1 in 1,000,000 (versus 1 in 50,000 for Touch ID).’
Here’s what you need to know about how Face ID works and the precautions Apple has taken for privacy and security.
DOES IT WORK?
It didn’t during Apple’s Sept. 12 event – at least initially, when senior vice president Craig Federighi tried and failed to demonstrate Face ID for the crowd before switching phones. Apple explained that handlers mistakenly set off Face ID attempts prior to Federighi’s presentation, which caused the phone to revert to a passcode lock before he took the stage.
While Face ID won’t face an acid test with ordinary users until November, Apple says it should work just fine.
WHEN FACEID FAILS
According to Apple, users must enter your passcode for additional security validation when:
- The device has just been turned on or restarted.
- The device hasn’t been unlocked for more than 48 hours.
- The passcode hasn’t been used to unlock the device in the last six and a half days and Face ID hasn’t unlocked the device in the last 4 hours.
- The device has received a remote lock command.
- After five unsuccessful attempts to match a face.
- After initiating power off/Emergency SOS by pressing and holding either volume button and the side button simultaneously for 2 seconds.
IS APPLE GOING TO STORE MY FACE IN THE CLOUD?
Relax, Apple says.
Your face isn’t leaving your device.
The iPhone X will store representations of your face in its ‘secure enclave,’ a hardware-based enclosure designed to be resistant to spying and tampering.
The phone-based neural net processing means the image representations never have to go anywhere.
The iPhone X allows does allow third-party apps to let you sign in via Face ID, but these outside developers only receive notifications from Apple that you’ve been authenticated or not.
Other apps ‘can’t access Face ID or the data associated with the enrolled face,’ the company said in its security white paper.
The only time your images can leave the phone is when you call Apple’s support service, AppleCare.
If you’re having trouble with Face ID, you can select which images you want to send for diagnostics, the company said.
HOW APPLE’S FACE ID WORKS
Face ID uses a TrueDepth front-facing camera on the iPhone X, which has multiple components.
A Dot Projector projects more than 30,000 invisible dots onto your face to map its structure.
The dot map is then read by an infrared camera and the structure of your face is relayed to the A11 Bionic chip in the iPhone X, where it is turned into a mathematical model.
When FaceID is used, a dot projector projects more than 30,000 invisible dots onto your face to map its structure
The A11 chip then compares your facial structure to the facial scan stored in the iPhone X during the setup process.
Face ID uses infrared to scan your face, so it works in low lighting conditions and in the dark.
It will only unlock your device when you look in the direction of the iPhone X with your eyes open.
Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, speaks about the Face ID feature to unlock the iPhone X during the company’s event at the new Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino
Face ID captures both a 3-D and 2-D image of your face using infrared light while you’re looking straight at the camera.
Five unsuccessful attempts at Face ID will force you to enter a passcode – which you’ll need anyway just to set up facial recognition.
Apple says it trained Face ID with hyperrealistic masks created by Hollywood studios, ensuring a mask of a person wouldn’t be able to fool the Face ID system.
That requires you to come up with a secure string of digits – or, for extra security, a string of letters and numbers – to protect your privacy.
Face ID also adapts to changes in your appearance over time, so it will continue to recognize you as you grow a beard or grow your hair longer.
CAN A BORDER GUARD/JEALOUS SPOUSE/TRAFFIC COP UNLOCK MY PHONE BY POINTING IT AT ME?
Maybe – although Face ID only works if you’re looking at it. So turning away is one emergency measure you could take.
Apple has also provided a panic button feature.
Simultaneously squeeze the iPhone X’s power button and either volume button for two seconds, and it will temporarily disable Face ID by turning the phone off.
Just as with Touch ID, the phone requires a passcode after a restart.
The process essentially turns your phone into a brick for anyone who doesn’t know your passcode.
SUPPOSE I SHAVE MY HEAD OR GROW A BEARD? WILL MY PHONE STILL KNOW ME?
Apple says its algorithms learn to adapt to appearance changes over time.
The system keeps recent images and uses them to allow unlocking if they are close enough to the registered image.
But if you undergo a sudden changes in appearance – like shaving a beard, for instance – the phone will only add the new image to its library if you follow a failed Face ID attempt by immediately entering your passcode.
APPLE’S IPHONE X
Apple’s iPhone X will go on sale on November 3rd
– $999 (£999 in the UK) price for 64GB version, and $1,149 (£1,149 in the UK) for the 256GB version
– Pronounced the ‘iPhone 10’
– Comes with 64GB and 256GB models
– Pre-orders open October 27, ships November 3
– No home button – swipe up from the bottom to unlock or to go home from an app or to multitask
– ‘Face ID’ that allows users to unlock the phone by looking at it
– Qi and AirPower wireless charging that lets you charge multiple devices at once
– ‘Screen tap’ unlock
– Edge to edge display with glass on both sides of the device
– Super retina display using OLED technology – highest ever pixel density in an iPhone
– Dual 12 megapixel cameras and dual-optical image stabilisation
– Tuned for augmented reality capabilities
– Portrait lighting that uses machine learning to touch up photos
– A11 bionic chips with six cores, can be 70 per cent faster than the previous A10 chip