Fa­cial recog­ni­tion may turn into a pri­vacy night­mare

Ap­ple will let you un­lock the iPhone X with your face, in a move likely to bring fa­cial recog­ni­tion to the masses, along with con­cerns over how the tech­nol­ogy may be used for ne­far­i­ous pur­poses

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Business -

AP­PLE’S new­est de­vice, set to go on sale Nov. 3, is de­signed to be un­locked with a fa­cial scan with a num­ber of pri­vacy safe­guards, as the data will only be stored on the phone and not in any data­bases. Un­lock­ing one’s phone with a face scan may of­fer added con­ve­nience and se­cu­rity for iPhone users, ac­cord­ing to Ap­ple, which claims its “neu­ral en­gine” for FaceID can­not be tricked by a photo or hacker. While other de­vices have of­fered fa­cial recog­ni­tion, Ap­ple is the first to pack the tech­nol­ogy al­low­ing for a three-di­men­sional scan into a hand­held phone. But de­spite Ap­ple’s safe­guards, pri­vacy ac­tivists fear the wide­spread use of fa­cial recog­ni­tion would “nor­mal­ize” the tech­nol­ogy and open the door to broader use by law en­force­ment, mar­keters or oth­ers of a largely un­reg­u­lated tool.

“Ap­ple has done a num­ber of things well for pri­vacy but it’s not al­ways go­ing to be about the iPhone X,” said Jay Stan­ley, a pol­icy an­a­lyst with the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union.

“There are real rea­sons to worry that fa­cial recog­ni­tion will work its way into our cul­ture and be­come a sur­veil­lance tech­nol­ogy that is abused.”

A study last year by Ge­orge­town Uni­ver­sity re­searchers found nearly half of all Amer­i­cans in a law en­force­ment data­base that in­cludes fa­cial recog­ni­tion, without their con­sent. Civil lib­er­ties groups have sued over the FBI’s use of its “next gen­er­a­tion” bio­met­ric data­base, which in­cludes fa­cial pro­files, claim­ing it has a high er­ror rate and the po­ten­tial for track­ing in­no­cent peo­ple.

“We don’t want po­lice of­fi­cers hav­ing a watch list em­bed­ded in their body cam­eras scan­ning faces on the side­walk,” said Stan­ley. Clare Garvie - the Ge­orge­town Uni­ver­sity Law School as­so­ciate who led the 2016 study on fa­cial recog­ni­tion data­bases - agreed that Ap­ple is tak­ing a re­spon­si­ble ap­proach but oth­ers might not.

“My con­cern is that the pub­lic is go­ing to be­come in­ured or com­pla­cent about this,” Garvie said. Wide­spread use of fa­cial recog­ni­tion “could make our lives more track­able by ad­ver­tis­ers, by law en­force­ment and maybe some­day by pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als,” she said.

Garvie said her re­search found sig­nif­i­cant er­rors in law en­force­ment fa­cial recog­ni­tion data­bases, open­ing up the pos­si­bil­ity some­one could be wrongly iden­ti­fied as a crim­i­nal sus­pect. An­other worry, she said, is that po­lice could track in­di­vid­u­als who have com­mit­ted no crime sim­ply for par­tic­i­pat­ing in demon­stra­tions. Shang­hai and other Chi­nese cities have re­cently started de­ploy­ing fa­cial recog­ni­tion to catch those who flout the rules of the road, in­clud­ing jay­walk­ers.

Fa­cial recog­ni­tion and re­lated tech­nolo­gies can also be used by re­tail stores to iden­tify po­ten­tial shoplifters, and by casi­nos to pin­point un­de­sir­able gam­blers. It can even be used to de­liver per­son­al­ized mar­ket­ing mes­sages, and could have some other po­ten­tially un­nerv­ing ap­pli­ca­tions. Last year, a Rus­sian pho­tog­ra­pher fig­ured out how to match the faces of porn stars with their so­cial me­dia pro­files to “doxx” them, or re­veal their true iden­ti­ties. This type of use “can cre­ate huge prob­lems,” Garvie said. “We have to con­sider the worst pos­si­ble uses of the tech­nol­ogy.”

Ap­ple’s sys­tem uses 30,000 in­frared dots to cre­ate a dig­i­tal im­age which is stored in a “se­cure en­clave,” ac­cord­ing to a white pa­per is­sued by the com­pany on its se­cu­rity. It said the chances of a “ran­dom” per­son be­ing able to un­lock the de­vice are one in a mil­lion, com­pared with one in 50,000 for its TouchID. Ap­ple’s FaceID is likely to touch off fresh le­gal bat­tles about whether po­lice can re­quire some­one to un­lock a de­vice. U.S. courts have gen­er­ally ruled that it would vi­o­late a user’s rights to give up a pass­code be­cause it is “tes­ti­mo­nial,” but that sit­u­a­tion be­comes murkier when bio­met­rics are ap­plied. Ap­ple ap­pears to have an­tic­i­pated this sit­u­a­tion by al­low­ing a user to press two but­tons for two sec­onds to re­quire a pass­code, but Garvie said court bat­tles over com­pelling the use of FaceID are likely.

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