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iPhone X FaceID Data Is Shared With Developers

Apple’s device launches always start with a bang and that was no different with the iPhone X, with consumers keen to snap up the latest smartphone from the California-based tech giant.

The iPhone X boasts a high screen-to-body ratio, smoother performance, a better camera, and a hefty price tag to match. Nevertheless, you can be sure that Apple fans won’t mind about the price and are instead keen to snap up the new phone.

However, those who are more privacy conscious may want to take pause when it comes to using one of the flagship features of the iPhone X.

The FaceID mapping system uses three components: a TrueDepth camera, a dot projector and a floodlight illuminator. You’ve probably seen this most often used for turning people’s faces into live emojis, but it has wider purposes than that. The FaceID software can create 50 different facial expressions and the computer software then animates it.

Since that feature was unveiled in September, people were sceptical when it came to privacy. Though Apple were keen to reassure, the way that the device shares it face mapping data might cause some to question.

The FaceID scanner maps the user’s face and then shares these face scans with third-party developers. As with all data, this could then be used for unapproved purposes, without user consent.

According to Reuters, Apple forces developers to get permission from the users that they’ll be collecting the data and to agree not to share the data with others. However, this data isn’t stored on Apple’s servers, it’s stored on the developer’s. Privacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology take issue with this.

“The privacy issues around of the use of very sophisticated facial recognition technology for unlocking the phone have been overblown. The real privacy issues have to do with the access by third-party developers,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Apple says that they have pre-publication reviews and audits for the developers, and threaten them with being removed from the app store if they’re found to be maliciously using data. Data released to security researchers also shows that developers with the FaceID data won’t be able to unlock the associated iPhone X. The system works on a mathematical algorithm rather than a visual map.

The thing is, some developers have admitted that Apple’s agreement is long and complex – often so much so that it isn’t fully read, especially by smaller developers without a legal team. This came to a head in 2012 with the app Path, which was found to be storing a user’s contact list to its database.

The U.S. Congress was also told in 2011 that Apple has yet to punish any developer for sharing user’s information, which questions how strict Apple are with these policies.

Whether Apple or its developers would use this data for malicious purposes is unknown – but you can bet they’ll use it for advertising data. It might be pushed as being a user experience addition, but it’s likely to be anything but.


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