Is your Face a key or a passcode?

Is your Face a key or a passcode?

Recently Apple announced a new feature for iPhoneX – facial recognition. Facial recognition in place of a fingerprint or passcode. The idea of using your face as an ID raises some interesting new legal issues.

For example, the police arrest you and want to access to your phone, all they would need to do is hold it up to your face to open it. Touch ID has many of the same issues, but no one knows how the system will hold up if the user was under duress. Face ID does allow users to opt out the same way it does for Touch ID. Fortunately there are some technical features that might help. The iPhone X will only unlock if your eyes are open. You should be able to disable it on the fly the way you can with Touch ID. Legally however, you are much more secure using a passcode to unlock your phone rather than your face or your finger.

Courts have been granting different 5th amendment protections to keycodes and biometric locks. These protections prevent police from forcing you to give potentially incriminating information or testimony. Keycodes are considered “testimonial” evidence. In many cases, police force suspects to open their phones using Touch ID. The reasoning is that a “fingerprint” is physical evidence.

So far, the courts have treated Touch ID more like a key. Facial ID still needs to be tested. Giving up a phone’s PIN is like giving away the code to a combination lock. Also, your face lives out in the open. Even photos on Istagram and Facebook could be enough to compromise your login.   Researchers at the University of North Carolina last year showed that they could use Facebook photos alone to reconstruct a 3-D virtual model of someone's face that could defeat five different facial-recognition applications they tested it against, with between 55 and 85 percent success rates.

Memorizing a passcode will give you more protection than using either your face or your finger to open your phone.

Apple is not the only phone to use facial recognition. Samsung introduced this feature in the spring. Consequently, if it’s easy to switch between the Facial ID and using a passcode then maybe there will be a little more security but we really won’t know until it’s here.

As always – E-N Computers is facing forward!