Apple responds to Sen. Franken’s FaceID questions

After concerns from Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, last month about the security of its new FaceID feature, Apple on Monday responded with a letter to assuage the lawmaker.

Franken sent questions to the Cupertino tech giant Sept. 13, a day after the company unveiled the FaceID feature, which will be on the new iPhone X. FaceID allows iPhone X users to unlock the phone by pointing it at their face, using the phone’s new cameras and sensors.

Cynthia Hogan, Apple’s vice president for public policy and government affairs, responded to Franken’s list of questions, assuring him that FaceID’s data is not stored outside the iPhone X and that the feature has other safeguards in place to prevent forceful openings.

“Face ID data, including mathematical representations of your face, is encrypted and only available to the Secure Enclave,” writes Hogan. “This data never leaves the device. It is not sent to Apple, nor is it included in device backups.”

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In her letter, Hogan points to a white paper published on Sept. 27 about FaceID’s security and an additional information page that publicly but indirectly answered Franken’s questions.

As noted in the white paper, Hogan notes again that FaceID will not open unless the user “confirms attention by directing the direction of your gaze.” With a 1 in a million probability that a random user can open iPhone X via FaceID, Apple also allows a maximum five attempts before the phone requires a passcode instead to unlock.

But Apple did not give as clear an answer when it came to answering Franken’s questions on where it got more than a billion facial images in developing its FaceID algorithm. Hogan said Apple used a “representative group of people” of different colors, genders and age with their consent without declaring how many people’s faces were involved in the study.

“I appreciate Apple’s willingness to engage with my office on these issues, and I’m glad to see the steps that the company has taken to address consumer privacy and security concerns,” said Franken in a statement after Hogan’s letter. “I plan to follow up with Apple to find out more about how it plans to protect the data of customers who decide to use the latest generation of iPhone’s facial recognition technology.”

Photo: iPhone X’s FaceID feature allows users to unlock their smartphones by pointing their face at its cameras and sensors. (Courtesy Apple)


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  • Lafayette Escadrill

    franken is an idiot