Apple responds to US Senator’s security concerns with more Face ID details and clarification

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Between an increasing number of reports detailing the TrueDepth camera production challenges Apple still needs to tackle before properly releasing the iPhone X, decreasing concerns of Face ID functionality issues, and an industry-wide desire to adopt 3D facial recognition all of a sudden, it may feel like we’re not talking enough about biometric security.

After all, Samsung’s 2D facial authentication method was distressingly easy to hack, and fingerprint readers have never enjoyed a foolproof reputation. Not even Touch ID sensors.

But Apple spent a lot of time out on the Steve Jobs Theater stage last month highlighting the vastly improved safety of using Face ID as a Touch ID replacement on the revolutionary iPhone X.

The official product webpage repeatedly calls this groundbreaking feature both “powerful and secure”, with a comprehensive Face ID security guide published shortly after the announcement of the three new iPhones, going into great detail to put everyone’s anxieties to rest.

If that’s still not enough to convince you of Apple’s profound commitment to encrypting and protecting sensitive Face ID data, the Cupertino-based company has also issued a formal response to Al Franken’s public September 13 query.

The American comedian turned Minnesota Senator and Ranking Member of the US Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law asked for “clarity” regarding issues like the potential usage of facial information “to benefit other sectors” of Apple’s business, sharing said data with “third parties for surveillance purposes”, or allowing law enforcement to “access its facial recognition system.”

Apple’s VP for Public Policy for the Americas region, Cynthia C. Hogan, provided the necessary clarification in a letter once again stressing both the innovative nature of Face ID and its almost impenetrable security.

All Face ID data, “including mathematical representations” of a user’s face, is encrypted and only “available to the Secure Enclave”, never leaving the device. There are no backups, no storage in Apple servers, and face images captured “during normal unlock operations” are “immediately discarded”, thus eliminating any possibility of a clash with law enforcement.

Perhaps more importantly, Al Franken and the world should know the probability that a “random person in the population could look at your iPhone X and unlock it using Face ID is approximately 1 in 1,000,000.” You get better odds playing the lottery, not to mention Touch ID is apparently susceptible to hacking 1 in every 50,000 “random” unlock attempts.

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About The Author
Adrian Diaconescu

Adrian has had an insatiable passion for writing since he was in school and found himself writing philosophical essays about the meaning of life and the differences between light and dark beer. Later, he realized this was pretty much his only marketable skill, so he first created a personal blog (in Romanian) and then discovered his true calling, which is writing about all things tech (in English).