Soon after Apple unveiled the iPhone X in September, U.S. Senator Al Franken sent the Cupertino company a letter containing several questions surrounding security and privacy while using Face ID. He provided Apple time until October 13, 2017, to answer all the questions raised in his letter.
Apple’s Cynthia Hogan, VP for Public Policy, has replied to the Senator’s letter answering all his questions. Hogan points the Senator to a Face ID security paper which Apple recently published. The paper provides all the key details on how Face ID trains itself, where and how it stores the data, and how it keeps the data of customers secure and safe.
Hogan explains in the letter that Face ID confirms a user is looking at the device through gaze detection before unlocking it. It also projects and reads the depth map of a user’s face which is then sent to the Secure Enclave for processing. All this data is collected and stored in a mathematical form and is only processed through the Secure Enclave. The Secure Enclave was previously used by Apple for processing and storing data collected by the Touch ID sensor. Any data sent to the Secure Enclave only resides in the chip and is not shared with Apple or any other third-party.
Additionally, any 2D photos of the face captured by Face ID are immediately discarded after it converts the data into a mathematical form. The information revealed by Apple in the letter is not new, with almost all of them being detailed in the Face ID security paper released earlier by the company.
Senator Al Franken, who is also on the board of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, has already published his response to Apple’s letter:
All the time, we learn about and actually experience new technologies and innovations that just a few years back were difficult to even imagine. While these developments are often great for families, businesses, and our economy, they also raise important questions about how we protect what I believe are among the most pressing issues facing consumers: privacy and security.
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.
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.
While quite a few Android smartphones out there already offer face unlock, there is a lot of hype surrounding Face ID on the iPhone X due to the way Apple has implemented it. All methods of face unlock we have seen so far have been slow and insecure, but Apple is so confident with Face ID on the iPhone X that it has completely replaced it with Touch ID.
The iPhone X goes up for pre-order on October 27 and will hit retail stores on November 3.
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