Apple’s Face ID: Company says privacy is ‘fundamental human right’

After unveiling its facial recognition technology earlier this month, Apple has been under the microscope on privacy and data security from journalists, ethicists and even congressmen.

On Wednesday, Apple took steps to clear the air. The Cupertino tech giant updated its privacy page — noting that privacy is a “fundamental human right” — and published a white paper study on its Face ID technology to detail when and how it can be used.

With the iPhone X set for a November 3 release amid reports of production delays, Wednesday’s move marks Apple’s latest push to quell any privacy concerns surrounding Face ID.

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After a letter from Senator Al Franken, D-Minnesota, asking for clarity on Face ID, Apple has been proactively explaining and defending Face ID, led by Craig Federighi, the company’s senior vice president of software engineering.

“Apple products are designed to do amazing things. And designed to protect your privacy,” reads the updated privacy page. “We’ve proved time and again that great experiences don’t have to come at the expense of your privacy and security. Instead, they can support them.”

On both its privacy page and the white paper, Apple stressed the fact that any stored data — including Face ID — does not leave the device. For Face ID, the data is stored in Secure Enclave,  a microchip stored inside the processor.

Face ID’s advent does not mean the passcode is going away, according to the white study. Apple saw Face ID as a more convenient complement to the passcode, which still will make the “foundation of your iOS device’s
cryptographic protection.”

The white paper also listed five scenarios in which Face ID will not work for privacy protection:

• The device hasn’t been unlocked for more than 48 hours.

• The passcode hasn’t been used to unlock the device in the last 156 hours
(six and a half days) and Face ID has not 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.

The study also looked to future applications for Face ID, including Apple Pay. Apple is expecting to unveil Messages-based mobile payment feature in a few months, where one can receive or pay money through Apple Pay.

To authorize a payment with Face ID, a user needs to double-click the side button to confirm intent to pay and then use Face ID for authentication.

Apple will also allow third-party apps to use Face ID authentication by letting developers build the feature via Apple’s “system-provided” application programming interface.

Photo: Screenshot of Apple’s updated privacy page (Courtesy Apple)


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