Scary faces: The Face ID bogeyman


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It is Halloween so it is an adorably appropriate time to talk about things you should be very scared of. And at the top of that list is not goblins or werewolves or public speaking but, instead, Face ID.

Writing for CNBC, Erin Barry warns that “There may be a privacy risk lurking beneath that shiny new iPhone, and it’s written all over your face.” (Tip o’ the antlers to Patrick S., Brian and Chris.)


The new iPhone X will use a face imprint to open the phone, but that is raising some privacy concerns.

About the iPhone X? Turns out, no! About other things!

This week, Apple began taking pre-orders for its $1,000 iPhone X. Along with that hefty price tag…

It is very expensive! Have I mentioned that?! (Also, oddly, selling very well despite being too expensive.)

…customers will face a new unlocking technology that’s raising concerns over security and privacy: Instead of a thumbprint, the iPhone X will take a 3D scan of your face.

Which no one has seen before. Because you are one of the Illuminati.

Now, as is required by Federal, State and many local jurisdictions, the Macalope must warn you that reading the next two sentences may cause sudden, involuntary spit takes. Please—PLEASE!—swallow any solids or liquids you may have in your mouth before reading on.

Apple claims the facial data will only be stored locally on the phone, and not compiled on company servers. However, that’s not the case with other companies that use similar technology.

What twisted, misshapen stepchild of logic is this that has come crawling from the shed, begging to eat at the table with the things that actually make sense? It’s unclear whether Barry is suggesting the because other companies do this, Apple is probably doing it too and just lying about it. And, since it is unclear, we are left to wonder, is the unclearness deliberate?

Face ID, of course, uses the same technology that Touch ID has used for several years. Your biometric data is stored in a secure enclave on your phone and most definitely not uploaded to some server. In fact, the secure enclave has right-to-repair people bent out of shape because certain repairs break the connection between the sensor and the enclave and only Apple can restore it.

Most of the actual privacy concerns brought up in the piece are about Facebook, not Apple, which is really weird considering the iPhone is the thing in the headline. The only valid concern about the iPhone the article mentions is the possibility of law enforcement coercing you to sign into your phone.

“And something that’s way less coercive that [sic] forcing someone to put your finger on a touch ID is just simply confiscating the phone and holding it up to your face,” [Slate technology reporter April] Glaser added.

Except Face ID requires you to make eye contact, so now we’re at gross, eyeball-touching levels of coercion. But, yeah, if you’re concerned about law enforcement coercing you to unlock your phone, you shouldn’t use Touch ID or Face ID. But absolute security is not what they’re for, they’re for convenience and achieving better practical security than most people were using.

The level of fear-mongering here is appropriate for the holiday but not much else. Most of the Apple parts of this piece should be retracted. Then they should be shot into the sun.

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