New iPhone X preps world for more uses of facial recognition
Look for it to be utilized at airports, other public settings
If the idea of unlocking a phone with your face seems creepy, you better get used to it.
Facial recognition is here, and it will only be more prevalent in the years to come.
Apple got the Internet talking this week about the possibilities of facial recognition and what it portends for the future when it introduced the iPhone X. The new top-of-the-line model, coming in November, uses your facial features to unlock the phone as well as to authenticate purchases through Apple Pay. Apple calls its flavor of facial recognition Face ID.
Face recognition is “already becoming incredibly pervasive in ways we don’t see,” says Clare Garvie, an associate with Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy & Technology.
With the release of the new iPhone X, “far more people will experience face recognition” in a public setting.
Prior versions of similar technology have been flawed, either getting fooled or getting the face match wrong. Facial recognition technology has been particularly poor at correctly identifying individuals who aren’t white, a weakness blamed on the racial makeup of the individuals who are designing the technology. Most are white men.
Georgetown Law found that face recognition has been less accurate on African Americans, women and young people. Google two years ago apologized after its new Photos application mistook an African-American man for a gorilla.
“It matters that we highlight bias and provide tools to identify and mitigate it,” Joy Buolamwini, a graduate researcher at the MIT Media Lab, told the U.K.’s Guardian recently. The African-American researcher says she repeatedly ran into bias in facial recognition software while working in robotics, finding that the technology would work better if she wore a white mask.
During its unveiling of the Face ID feature on Tuesday, Apple did show (among others) a picture of an African American male whose face could be used to unlock the phone.
Beyond possible racial stereotyping, Apple’s Face ID has raised concerns that advances in this field will bring the U.S. closer to a surveillance state.
Apple says your facial data is encrypted and protected on the device (not in the cloud) so that only you can unlock the phone.
Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, talks about the facial recognition features of the new iPhone X.