Privacy Experts Raise Concerns Over iOS Developer Access to Certain Pieces of Facial Data

The iPhone X's facial recognition abilities continue to be found at the center of privacy concerns, with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology today raising questions over how "effectively" Apple can enforce certain privacy rules surrounding face scanning (via Reuters). Specifically, the privacy defending groups are worried about how certain pieces of facial data can be taken off the iPhone X by developers who seek to create entertainment features with the new smartphone's facial software.

Facial data that is used to unlock the iPhone X -- or data related to "Face ID" -- is securely stored on the device itself and not in iCloud. However, Apple will let developers take certain pieces of this facial data off the user's iPhone "as long as they seek customer permission and not sell the data to third parties," according to terms seen in a contract by Reuters. This means that developers who want to use the iPhone X's front-facing camera can get a "rough map" of the user's face, as well as a "stream of more than 50 kinds of facial expressions."

faceidscaniphonex
The data that developers can gather -- which can then be stored on the developer's own servers -- is said to help monitor how often users blink, smile, or even raise an eyebrow. Although this data can't unlock the iPhone X, according to documents about Face ID sent to security researchers, the "relative ease" with which developers can gain access to parts of a user's facial data and add it to their own servers has led to the new concerns raised by the ACLU and CDT today.

That remote storage raises questions about how effectively Apple can enforce its privacy rules, according to privacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology. Apple maintains that its enforcement tools - which include pre-publication reviews, audits of apps and the threat of kicking developers off its lucrative App Store - are effective.

[...]But the relative ease with which developers can whisk away face data to remote servers leaves Apple sending conflicting messages: Face data is highly private when used for authentication, but it is sharable - with the user’s permission - when used to build app features.

According to Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU, the privacy issues surrounding facial recognition in the context of unlocking a smartphone "have been overblown." Stanley explained, "The real privacy issues have to do with access by third-party developers." The experts concerned about Face ID in this context are also not worried about "government snooping," but more about marketers and advertisers tracking how a user's expression reacts to their ads.

Apple has strict policies against developers using face data for advertising and marketing, but those concerned groups cited worry about the company's "inability to control what app developers do with face data once it leaves the iPhone X." Stanley said that "the hard part" for Apple will come from having to find and catch the apps that might be violating these policies, meaning that the big household names probably won't be of concern to Apple, "but there's still a lot of room for bottom feeders."

Now that the iPhone X is in the hands of reviewers, many have said that Face ID works quite well in many different conditions. Some outlets have taken to try and fool Face ID with large pieces of clothing, sunglasses, and "twin tests," the last of which have come back with mixed results. In its ongoing efforts to reassure customers of Face ID's security and privacy, Apple released an in-depth security white paper in September to highlight and explain some of these features of Face ID.

Tag: Face ID
Related Forum: iPhone

Top Rated Comments

MacQork Avatar
52 months ago
Wowzers. Apple needs to put a privacy setting in place ASAP, to keep advertisers from being able to do things like "Smile at this ad to continue". Which advertisers can and will end up doing.
Or force you to look at the AD otherwise it stops playing, I think those are very reasonable concerns
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
OllyW Avatar
52 months ago
This negates all the security Apple built in to FaceID. Allowing this data out is plane ridiculous. The next thing that will happen is the government demanding a real time feed. 1984 only 27 years late.
Have you been using the iOS 11 calculator? :D
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rogifan Avatar
52 months ago
Too many people worry too much. Enjoy life and stop worrying.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
simonmet Avatar
52 months ago
which can then be stored on the developer's own servers
This is the part that bothers me.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Iconoclysm Avatar
52 months ago
This negates all the security Apple built in to FaceID. Allowing this data out is plane ridiculous. The next thing that will happen is the government demanding a real time feed. 1984 only 27 years late.
Are you aware it's not 2011?
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thejadedmonkey Avatar
52 months ago
Wowzers. Apple needs to put a privacy setting in place ASAP, to keep advertisers from being able to do things like "Smile at this ad to continue". Which advertisers can and will end up doing.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
airtag in hand

Apple Enhancing AirTags Anti-Stalking Measures With Android App and Shorter Sound Intervals

Thursday June 3, 2021 11:10 am PDT by
Apple is enhancing AirTags security to prevent stalking using the Bluetooth devices, Apple told CNET today. Apple is already sending out over-the-air updates to AirTags that will shorten the amount of time before an unknown AirTag alerts you if it is in your possession. At the current time, AirTags play a sound after three days of being away from their owner. After the update, AirTags will...
maxresdefault

Here's How Apple's New iPhone to iPhone Data Migration Feature Works in iOS 12.4

Tuesday July 23, 2019 1:20 pm PDT by
Apple this week released iOS 12.4, the newest version of iOS 12 available for iPhones and iPads. One of the new features in iOS 12.4 is an updated data migration option that uses device to device transfers rather than relying on iCloud. Apple didn't provide much information on the new data migration feature, so we thought we'd check it out in our latest YouTube video. Subscribe to the ...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
macos catalina legacy system extension alert

Apple Begins Warning Users That 'Legacy System Extensions' Won't Work With a Future Version of macOS

Wednesday March 25, 2020 9:53 am PDT by
Apple has shared a new support document that indicates kernel extensions — which it calls "legacy system extensions" — will not be compatible with a future version of macOS because they "aren't as secure or reliable as modern alternatives."System extensions are a category of software that works in the background to extend the functionality of your Mac. Some apps install kernel extensions, which...
os x mountain lion macs 16x9 2

Apple Makes OS X Lion and Mountain Lion Free to Download

Wednesday June 30, 2021 12:19 pm PDT by
Apple recently dropped the $19.99 fee for OS X Lion and Mountain Lion, making the older Mac updates free to download, reports Macworld. Apple has kept OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion available for customers who have machines limited to the older software, but until recently, Apple was charging $19.99 to get download codes for the updates. As of last week, these updates no...
airtag precision finding

AirTag Includes U1 Chip for 'Precision Finding' Feature

Tuesday April 20, 2021 12:11 pm PDT by
Apple's long-awaited AirTag was finally unveiled today, and as expected, the small circle-shaped accessories can be attached to items like wallets, keys, and more to allow them to be tracked in the Find My app. As was rumored ahead of release, each AirTag is equipped with a U1 chip, and on devices that also have U1 chips, there's a Precision Finding feature. U1 Ultra Wideband chips are...
iOS 15 General Feature Yellow

Everything New in iOS 15 Beta 6: SharePlay Disabled, Safari Redesigned and More

Tuesday August 17, 2021 2:12 pm PDT by
Apple released the sixth beta of iOS 15 just a week after the fifth beta, but the new update brings some of the most significant tweaks that we've seen to iOS 15 during the beta testing period. Safari Redesign Apple in iOS 15 beta 6 has added a toggle to move the Safari address bar to the top of the interface, which returns Safari to an iOS 14-like design and mitigates all of the Safari...
m1 macbook air

Kuo: Mini-LED MacBook Air Coming in Mid-2022

Thursday July 22, 2021 7:48 pm PDT by
Apple will release a new version of the MacBook Air around the middle of 2022, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in note to investors seen by MacRumors. The upcoming MacBook Air will feature a 13.3-inch mini-LED display, which would make it the second Mac to gain mini-LED technology after the 2021 MacBook Pro, which is rumored to include a mini-LED display and is expected to launch later ...
2016 macbook pro flexgate b

Apple Faces Another Class-Action MacBook Pro ‘Flexgate’ Lawsuit

Thursday August 20, 2020 6:43 am PDT by
Another class-action complaint has been lodged against Apple, which claims that the company was aware of a MacBook Pro design flaw that caused some devices to have backlight display issues (via Apple Insider). The so-called "flexgate" problem was present in some MacBook Pro models manufactured between 2016 and 2017. The problem appears as dark patches along the bottom of the MacBook Pro's...