Apple questioned about Face ID security by the US Senate

Mariella Moon
A lot of people quickly raised concerns about privacy and security the moment Apple revealed iPhone X and its Face ID feature.

A lot of people quickly raised concerns about privacy and security the moment Apple revealed iPhone X and its Face ID feature. Edward Snowden, for instance, thinks it normalizes face scanning, "a tech certain to be abused." Now, US Senator Al Franken is pressing the tech titan for answers, penning a letter addressed to Apple chief Tim Cook with a list of questions concerning the technology's "eventual uses that may not be contemplated by" its customers.

While Cupertino already said during its keynote that Face ID details will be saved on the phone itself, Franken wants to know whether it's currently possible for Apple or a third party to access (and then save) that data either remotely or through physical access to one's iPhone. He wants to know all the steps Apple has taken to ensure the tech can't be fooled by masks and photographs. He's asking Apple where it got the one billion face images the company used to train the Face ID algorithm, and he wants assurance that Apple won't use customers' faceprints for any other purpose.

More importantly, Franken wants to know how Apple plans to respond to law enforcement requests demanding Face ID data. A valid question, since it's no secret that Apple, Google and other tech titans get a lot of government requests for info. Apple even waged war against the Department of Justice last year when it refused to unlock the iPhone 5C that belonged to San Bernardino shooter. In the end, the tech giant's input wasn't even needed: the FBI gave up on persuading Cupertino and bought a tool to unlock the device from a third party provider for nearly a million.

In addition to questions about security, Franken is asking Apple what steps it took to make sure "its system was trained on a diverse set of faces, in terms of race, gender and age." As you know, facial recognition systems still aren't perfect and frequently have issues recognizing the faces of POC. Franken hopes to get answers to all those questions by October 13th, though it's up to Apple to decide whether to write back.

Senator Al Franken