IPhone preps world for more fa­cial ID

Look for it to be uti­lized at air­ports, other pub­lic set­tings

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Jef­fer­son Gra­ham and Ed­ward C. Baig

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.

Ac­cord­ing to Ap­ple, Face ID will work re­gard­less of whether the per­son’s face is cov­ered by sun­glasses or a hat.


Face recog­ni­tion is “al­ready be­com­ing in­cred­i­bly per­va­sive in ways we don’t see,” Ge­orge­town’s Clare Garvie says.

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