Applications may have too much access to face identification data on iPhone X –

Applications may have too much access to face identification data on iPhone X


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The new iPhone X comes with an elegant array of sensors capable of scanning and recognizing your face. Everything is part of the new Face ID system, which replaces Touch ID in Apple's most expensive iPhone so far. The early response to Face ID has been mostly positive, and seems to be hard to fool. However, some privacy advocates have expressed concern about the amount of access applications have for Face ID. Actually, it could be a kind of privacy nightmare.

The Face ID key is in the notch of the iPhone X screen, that bevel patch that is inserted into the screen from edge to edge. That's where Apple has integrated its True Depth camera system. Using a network of 30,000 infrared points, True Depth builds a highly accurate map of your face, allowing you to recognize it immediately. Apple also developed some fun extras with the True Depth camera such as Animojis, animated emoji live based on their facial expressions.

Like Touch ID data, your Face ID biometrics are not stored online or provided to applications directly. However, applications have access to some less sensitive Face ID data for features such as Animojis. This could end up being a much bigger privacy concern than the standard front cameras on other phones.

Third-party applications gain access to 3D metal structure data from the iPhone X True Depth camera system. That means they can track real-time movements of your mouth, eyes and even subtle changes in facial expression. That's what makes Animojis so strangely compelling to iPhone X users: they look alive. There is nothing that prevents application developers from taking that data and storing it on a server, which offers much more information than a common photo.

Security badysts are concerned that applications can use this 3D information to gather more information vital statistics of a user in a few seconds. You might think that you're just playing with a new and fun Animoji, but the app could be reading your mood, tracking your expressions and even identifying your gender and race. Those are all potentially valuable statistics for advertisers.

After being informed of this possible privacy headache, Apple decided that applications that use Face ID must have a privacy policy. As Apple well knows, nobody reads that. Until we know how the developers will make use of 3D facial data, you may want to be wary of applications optimized for the True Depth technology of the iPhone X.

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