Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Facial Recognition Mania Mania

John C. Dvorak of PC Magazine wrote a piece tying the introduction of Face ID on the iPhone X to the Australian government’s plans to introduce a facial recognition system to identify suspects of crime. I know very little about that plan — though I’m eager to learn more — but I do know enough about the iPhone X to take issue with this bit of his piece:

We can assume the NSA, which spies on its own citizenry, will store massive amounts of imagery in its huge facility in Utah. From that, an instant dossier of someone’s whereabouts can be produced as needed.

Until then, we have Apple’s iPhone X, which swaps Touch ID for Face ID. The real beneficiaries of this technique will be the police; they can just point it at the person and they are in.

The user must be paying attention to the device and within a certain range for Face ID to make a successful scan. And, for what it’s worth, pressing and holding the power button and either volume button for two seconds will disable Face ID until a passcode is entered.

Also, implicitly tying Face ID to assumed NSA activities is misleading and irresponsible.

Apple previously relied on fingerprints with Touch ID; now the home button is gone, perhaps saving it money. Facial recognition is just software, after all; the camera is already in the phone.

Dvorak continues to demonstrate why he is one of the most inept technology columnists writing today in a mainstream publication. Apple has helpfully provided an easy-to-read white paper (PDF) explaining how Face ID works. It’s six pages long, but if that’s too much reading for Dvorak, Apple also put a labelled diagram on the iPhone X’s marketing webpage. In short, it doesn’t use the front-facing camera that’s “already in the phone” — it uses an infrared light, infrared dot projector, and an infrared camera to create a depth map of the detected face.

I don’t have a problem with people whose opinion differs from my own. I don’t have a problem with people who write articles that I firmly disagree with. I do have a problem with laziness and making stuff up.