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Facial Recognition Goes Mainstream

March 27, 2018

Whether you want to buy a train ticket, withdraw cash from your bank or order food, your face could soon become your new currency. With a simple glance, facial recognition can already enable you to log into mobile apps and make transactions.

Facial recognition technology isn’t exactly new: Law enforcement already uses the technology to identify crime suspects, while Facebook and Google collected facial data for years to identify people in photos. But Apple’s Face ID feature for the iPhone X is sparking new conversations about how the innovative technology works – and the best ways to balance convenience with privacy.

Apple’s new phone, which went on sale in November 2017, introduces a facial recognition software that enables users to unlock the device and authorize Apple Pay transactions. Apple says it will store facial data on users’ phones instead of in the cloud to strengthen security against hackers. Apple also claims its Face ID tool can tell the difference between a real person and a photo.

Passwords, Fingerprints or Faces?

Like fingerprints, facial IDs offer a convenient alternative to passwords and pins that are often forgotten or stolen. But are they the safest way to unlock your phone?

While Apple’s facial recognition technology is more secure than its fingerprint technology, both are less secure than a strong passcode, according to The Verge.

When you use biometrics, you also surrender control of a piece of information that could be used to identify you forever, according to Consumer Reports. While passwords can easily be changed if compromised, there is little you can do about a stolen facial ID or fingerprint.

Can a Facial ID be Forced?

Beyond security concerns, facial IDs raise new privacy questions. One trending question is whether a police officer, customs agent or criminal could force you to unlock your phone with Face ID by simply holding the phone up to your face.

Apple says your eyes must be open and your face lined up with the camera for the technology to work. But at least one test showed that as soon as the test subject opened his eyes, Face ID was able to make a match.

Faces of the Future

In the not-too-distant future, retailers may use facial recognition to identify customers in stores or track their attention in ads.

In China, for example, the startup Face++ is using facial recognition to provide access to apartment buildings, transfer money through mobile payment apps and confirm drivers’ identities at a ride-hailing company, according to MIT Technology Review.

Face++ technology can also identify suspects in surveillance camera videos — a concern for U.S. privacy experts, who say the government could potentially track citizens in public settings, such as political protests.

As facial recognition technology becomes more widespread, the conversation on convenience versus privacy will only continue. While the technology isn’t inherently good or bad, consumers should learn all the trade offs involved before converting to the newest digital currency.

Whether you choose to use regular text passwords, fingerprints or facial recognition, it’s important to be diligent with your security preferences and exercise precaution at all times. For all of the Cox High Speed Internet customers out there, check out this article on the 10 Best and Worst WiFi passwords to analyze your password strengths and weaknesses.

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