The five biggest questions about Apple’s new facial recognition system

Russell Brandom, The Verge:

Because phone’s all-glass front leaves no room for a home button, Apple is ditching Touch ID in favor of a facial recognition system powered by a new camera array and a specially modified A11 chip.

Not quite sure “leaves no room for a home button” quite captures the motivation for the change. But no matter, the article goes on to ask 5 questions, with thoughts for each.

Here are the questions:

  • Will Face ID make it easier for police to unlock my phone?

  • Could my face leak or get stolen?

  • Will Face ID have a racial bias problem?

  • Can you spoof Face ID with a picture of someone else’s face?

  • Will Apple ever use Face ID for anything other than unlocking phones?

Tempting to just dismiss these questions (the first four with a no, the last with Animoji), but they are interesting topics. Lots of food for thought here.

One particular point:

Soon, millions of people will be enrolled into Face ID, giving Apple control over a powerful facial recognition tool. In the current system, that data stays on phones, but that could always change. The hashing would make it difficult for anyone other than Apple to use the data, but there’s no real limit on what they use it for, particularly if they start to store information outside of specific phones. On Twitter, privacy advocates worried about Face ID data being used for retail surveillance or attention tracking in ads. You could also imagine it as next year’s delightful product breakthrough, integrated into Apple Stores or Apple Cars as a way of carrying over logins no matter who walks in.

Some good thoughts, there. One I’d add: Apple is going to gather a tremendous amount of machine learning data, with incredible value (especially in the phone arms race), if they find a way to bring that data back to their central servers. This is a mighty new frontier.