Apple iPhone X Face ID Security May Not Be Effective with Children Under Age 13

Apple is now saying that children should not use the new iPhone’s facial recognition technology because faces of children under age 13s could be too similar to each other to protect phones from other juvenile intruders.

The iPhone X, which is set to ship November 3, 2017, uses a facial recognition system called Face ID to unlock phones, verify payments and gain access to apps. The Apple iPhone X has an array of sensors at the top of the phone that scan the users’ face, then a processor compares the user’s face to the user’s personal model stored on the phone.

At introduction, Apple said the chances of an imposter being able to trick the system are one in a million, making facial recognition more secure than the one in 50,000 chance a fingerprint scanner.

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 (versus 1 in 50,000 for Touch ID). For additional protection, Face ID allows only five unsuccessful match attempts before a passcode is required to obtain access to your iPhone. The probability of a false match is different for twins and siblings that look like you as well as among children under the age of 13, because their distinct facial features may not have fully developed. If you’re concerned about this, we recommend using a passcode to authenticate.

— Apple

However, in an Apple security paper (Face ID Security/PDF) on Wednesday Apple said that since under-13s’ faces are still developing, there is a greater chance that the feature may not work as intended and other children – especially brothers or sisters – will be able to unlock the phone.

On the day of the introduction, Apple did warn about using facial recognition on the iPhone X if the user has an evil twin. Apple recommended using a PIN code on the phone to lock it instead.

To improve unlock performance and keep pace with the natural changes of
your face and look, Face ID augments its stored mathematical representation
over time. Upon successful unlock, Face ID may use the newly calculated
mathematical representation—if its quality is sufficient—for a finite number
of additional unlocks before that data is discarded. Conversely, if Face ID fails
to recognize you, but the match quality is higher than a certain threshold and
you immediately follow the failure by entering your passcode, Face ID takes
another capture and augments its enrolled Face ID data with the newly
calculated mathematical representation. This new Face ID data is discarded
after a finite number of unlocks and if you stop matching against it. These
augmentation processes allow Face ID to keep up with dramatic changes in
your facial hair or makeup use, while minimizing false acceptance.

— Apple

The iPhone X has a row of sensors on the top for Face ID. The facial recognition cameras and sensors project thousands of invisible light beams onto the user’s face, creating a three-dimensional model so that it cannot be fooled by photographs.

Apple reports it used realistic face masks from Hollywood studios to confirm that realistic face masks do not defeat the Face ID Security and unlock the iPhone X.

Face ID data doesn’t leave your device, and is never backed up to iCloud or
anywhere else. Only in the case that you wish to provide Face ID diagnostic data
to AppleCare for support will this information be transferred from your device.
Enabling Face ID Diagnostics requires a digitally signed authorization from
Apple that’s similar to the one used in the software update personalization
process. After authorization, you’ll be able to activate Face ID Diagnostics and
begin the setup process from within the Settings app of your iPhone X.

— Apple

Users may notice a faint light output from the TrueDepth camera in a very dark room because the system’s TrueDepth camera, which can be activated just by picking up the phone, uses infrared light to scan things. The infrared allows Face ID Security to operate even in complete darkness. Apple claims the camera poses no health risks due to its low output, and is “safe to use under normal usage conditions.”

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