One of the standout features in the high-end iPhone X, which Apple revealed on Tuesday, is Face ID.
Since the iPhone X is the first iPhone without a home button, you can’t use your fingerprint to unlock your phone. Instead, the iPhone X projects 30,000 invisible dots on your face and analyzes them to authenticate your identity – and it all happens in milliseconds.
Unfortunately, you can see how people might take advantage of this.
In the demo area following Apple’s event, people got their first glimpse at how Face ID actually works on the iPhone X. But since attendees couldn’t register their faces to these demo iPhones, all the attendees used nearby Apple employees to unlock the iPhone X, using their faces. An attendee could just flash the iPhone at an Apple employee’s face to unlock the phone – as long as the employees eyes were open and looking at the phone, even for just a moment, the phone would unlock.
That seems like a potential problem.
Imagine sitting in a bar with your friends one night, and your new iPhone X is sitting on the bar counter near your drink. Then, imagine someone else – maybe a friend, maybe a thief – quickly grabbing your iPhone X, flashing it in front of your face so it unlocks, and then running out the door before you can realize what happened. That doesn’t sound like fun!
Here’s another scenario that The Verge recently brought up: What happens if you’re arrested for some reason, and police want to access your phone? The Fifth Amendment, which protects people from being compelled to testify against themselves, does protect keycodes like the 4- to 6-digit passcodes on the iPhone – which is still an option in the iPhone X – but it doesn’t protect this kind of facial unlocking feature or Apple’s TouchID fingerprint scanner. And so, at least from a legal perspective, a digital passcode is still more “protected” than Face ID and Touch ID.
Still, Face ID is an exciting new feature, and considering how most customers will choose to use it instead of a digital passcode, Apple will almost certainly come up with solutions to some of these issues to ensure people can’t just swipe your phone, scan your face, and run off with it. Still, it’s easy to see how people could take advantage of this new system – either to prank people, or to rob them, or worse, potentially. For now, it sounds like the safest solution for iPhone X owners will be to rely on the old-fashioned passcode.