The biggest news from Apple’s launch party this week was the arrival of the iPhone X and, specifically, a new feature that lets you unlock the iPhone with your face. That’s right: You can skip entering a passcode and access the phone just by looking at it.
While this technology is not new (some Samsung phones already have it), Apple is pushing the boundaries by going all-in. Unlike its rivals, Apple says its version—FaceID—is totally secure and says consumers can rely on it completely.
That’s nice but I’m still not going to use it.
As I explain in a debate (see video above) with my colleague Robert “yolo” Hackett, Face ID is an impressive new technology but the potential risks are just too great.
One reason is I’m not convinced Face ID is as secure as Apple says it is, or that the technology can’t be fooled. Indeed, hackers have already tweeted “game on.”
But that’s not my biggest worry. Instead, my fear is Face ID makes it too easy for other people—including cops, border agents, muggers, jealous lovers, and so on—to get into your phone.
Right now, it’s relatively hard for these third parties to get into your phone. They must either know your passcode or, if you have Touch ID enabled, force you to put a fingerprint on the screen.
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In the case of Face ID, however, anyone can get into your phone simply by pointing it at you. For thieves, the feature will make the iPhone X more tempting to snatch since, if the phone is locked, they will have an easy way to open it before running off.
As for law enforcement, sure, the law requires police officers to get a warrant before searching a phone. But given how easy it is to unlock, many cops will find it hard to resist the temptation to open the phones by pointing it at a suspect, and the claiming the phone was already unlocked. Moreover, there’s also a series of exceptions to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement, most notably in case of searches at the border.
The bottom line is Face ID is a cool and convenient new feature. But because your phone is a gateway to the most personal details of your life—email, photos, banking apps, etc—the privacy risk is too great, so I won’t be using it.