The more functions a smartphone has, the more data we have and the more security we must deposit in it. | Image: Drew Graham
With the two most avant-garde mobile brands, such as Apple and Samsung, incorporating the facial recognition system in their mobiles, questions arise about its effectiveness, usefulness and, above all, security. Therefore, to what extent does this new unlocking system represent an advance in smartphones?
In this article we will analyze the advantages and disadvantages of this technology (also known as Face ID), the discrepancies between what they want to sell us and what they really we buy and some future implications.
What they sell us about Facial Recognition
Undoubtedly, facial recognition as an unlocking method sounds like a state-of-the-art element that every high-end smartphone should already have. At the same time, it has an almost insurmountable security, due to the obvious fact that there are not two different faces ; except in the case of twins.
Apple, for example, has decided to use facial recognition as a method to make payments with its new iPhone X; unlike Samsung in its latest model S8, in which it seems that it has not placed so much trust.
In addition, such is the confidence on the part of Apple in its Face ID, that they assure that it is much more reliable than the previous security method, Touch ID, that is, the fingerprint. To support this idea, they provide, among other data, thatFace ID uses 30,000 points of facial measurement , which, so precise, that they work just as well even covering parts of the face or even if the person ages 10 years.
Face ID: what you really buy
Being Samsung one of the reference brands and main introducers of this technology in the market, it did not have a start at the height to which we are accustomed. Such is the fiasco, that the facial recognition of your Samsung Galaxy S8 is probably the element that has met the most criticism . In fact, it was even said that facial recognition could be fooled with a simple photo, because it had not incorporated a depth measurement system.
Although it may seem like an exaggeration, the truth is that it is only the beginning of this new technology that is advancing by leaps and bounds. For example, the new iPhone X does not have a fingerprint reader. But, is this so soon massive introduction of said technology justified
? Or is it, as always, the continuous struggle of the big ones to be up to date at all costs?
There seems to be a general consensus regarding the very positive opinion of Face ID from Apple. However, anecdotes appear to us like what happened to Craig Federighi at the official presentation of the iPhone X, when facial recognition did not work for him and he had to use the numerical key .
Anecdotes aside, let’s now see some cases in which facial recognition can be a problem:
What happens if we are coerced?
Forcing us to show our face or even put a fingerprint to unlock our cell phone is a fact. Mobile phones are one of the most stolen objects in the world and it is not by chance since, on the one hand, this industry moves billions of dollars, and on the other, they are very easy to sell.
It would not be uncommon that in a robbery, the victim is forced to put their biometric information (eyes, face or fingerprints, mainly) in the open, in order to be able to access the information, the smartphone itself, or even payment methods. like Apple Pay.
You can think of more extreme cases, such as the death of a user. One would think that it would be possible to use the face or fingerprints of a deceased person to unlock the mobile phone. Not only in “negative” cases, in which the owner has been murdered, and it is the murderer who wants to access the terminal, but also the police or even the family need to enter the cell phone to access certain information.
Can it be used with deceased people?
The truth is that fingerprints do not work if the person is not alive , because for the detector to work a certain electrical charge is needed, such as that found naturally in our skin. But then, what happens in the case of facial recognition
In the case of facial recognition, most detectors require the person to look directly at the camera. But this today can be a problem in the case of being coerced, but some cutting-edge engineers already assure that “anti-coercion systems” will be able to be designed soon , capable of detecting, depending on facial expressions, if the person is being coerced, in such a way that only some parts of the mobile phone (previously pre-selected) will be allowed access.
This poses another problem, and that is that, by the time this “anti-coercion” system becomes popular, the robbers will know how it works. This is why the only certainty we have regarding security systems, from antivirus to biometric measurement systems, is that they are not a product but a process in continuous evolution .
Who has my biometric data
The facial recognition system also has the apparent advantage that it “learns” from previous measurements, this means that every time you use it, it remembers the information and allows more accurate measurements to be made in the future , which which implies that this information is stored in the terminal.
A question that will be asked by more than one cautious and suspicious user of their privacy, is without a doubt, where will my data about my face end
up, because this information could be easily accessed by Apple, Samsung, or any brand of device you are using. And if we add this data to the increased use of facial recognition systems by security agencies (among many others), we are inevitably faced with a reality that is at least disturbing.
The future is tomorrow Regardless
of who cares, facial recognition will be imposed on all brands and terminals in a short time. In fact, the SLiM facial recognition system is already on the way(from its acronym Structured Light Module). This technology will be present in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 854 processors and will be in future, but not far away, models such as: Samsung Galaxy S9, Sony Xperia XZ2 and LG G7, among others.
Qualcomm assures that its new and revolutionary technology will be above the new smartphone models and that, of course, it will be proof of 2D and 3D models to avoid intrusions.
In contrast, we have great Tech Gurus like Stefanos Zafeiriou, to give an example, who works at Imperial College London, who comments on Face ID in NewSciencist magazine:
“I would not recommend anyone to trust facial verification of the “iPhone”
There are, as almost always, opinions of all kinds for the same product. The case of facial recognition is not an exception and right now we can choose whether or not to use this technology, maybe not tomorrow.