(Credit: Apple)

Normalising facial recognition, but what if?

After the introduction of FaceID on the new iPhone X and the the immediate sentiment it generated in terms of privacy, I got curious about the process, criteria and debates Apple might follow internally when it comes to developing and introducing so drastically new technologies that will not only are going to have a impact on the users’ experience, but society as a whole.

Facial recognition is not new, and Apple is not the first one trying to put it into consumer devices; Samsung and Microsoft already done it, yet Apple will probably be the first one to successfully push it into mass adoption, because they simply can.

There have been a debate since the introduction of the iPhone X and it’s face recognition capabilities, the majority of those not focused on the technology itself, but instead, the ethical implications in terms of personal privacy and what it could it mean in the future.

The iPhone X represents a significant shift in paradigm when it comes to data privacy, security and biometrics, it represents the moment when security stopped been about passwords to become about ourselves beyond just fingerprints. We are from now on, the key to our data, literally.

Yes, it’s just facial recognition on a phone, for now… But this clearly opens the path for a new era, where our bodies are going to become an intrinsic part of the way we interact with technology and how we will authenticate ourselves.

Moreover, for decades we’ve fantasised about sci-fi dreams portrayed in the movies, where our houses, cars and almost any device is able to recognise us by just walking into a room, or by touching a surface. Under that premise, a phone that “senses you” or “recognise you” seems the next logic step. We still have a long way to go, but I can definitely see FaceID becoming the beginning of a dormant revolution, the question for me is, what if?

What if systems break? What is a security bridge can jeopardise our most private and sensible information ever, what if our biometrics’ data gets stolen? Traditional password systems can be hacked and its data stolen, but they can also be changed by the users afterwards; but how would you change your biometrics? How would you change your face? How do we react on those circumstances?

Apple have been very clear about their intentions to fully secure this data to avoid its abuse, but not every company will act this way, and if this is not the case, probably for the first time ever, we face the possibility of a digital threat having an unmeasurably impact in the integrity of our identity, even in the physical world.

Furthermore, all of the above could be probably defined as “the worst case scenario” but a scenario non the less. These are question I ask myself upon what I consider the rise of a new era of identification; and I just hope that those in charge of creating and securing these technologies also share these concerns, and already thought about the answers.

Finally, I’m not here to criticise or satanise the FaceID as many have already done, especially for a technology I have not personally tried yet.

It is still too early, and the iPhone X is not even out yet, but clearly opens up a series of questions for which we might not have the answers yet, and for others that we might not like once we find them; maybe it will become the greatest thing since the iPhone itself, but only time will tell.

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