Face recognition will benefit everyone, if done right. Or it will contribute to a world without privacy, if done wrong.
Apple is doing it right.
Apple’s approach is to radically separate the parts of face scanning. Face ID deals not in “pictures,” but in math. The face scan generates numbers, which are crunched by A.I. to determine whether the person now facing the camera is the same person who registered with Face ID. That’s all it does.
The scanning, the generation of numbers, the A.I. for judging whether there’s a match and all the rest all happens on the phone itself, and the data is encrypted and locked on the phone.
It’s not necessary to trust that Apple would prevent a government or hacker from using Face ID to identify a suspect or dissident or target. Apple is simply unable to do that.
Meanwhile, the features that allow changes in facial expression and whether the eyes are open are super useful, and users can enjoy apps that implement these features without fear of privacy violation.
Instead of slamming Apple for its new face tech, privacy advocates should be raising awareness about the risks we face with irresponsible face recognition.
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