Senator Al Franken Is Worried About Security, Privacy With Face ID

Apple’s new FaceID technology embedded in the iPhone X may have elicited a lot of oohs and ahhs from the tech crowd, but at least one lawmaker is concerned about the technology’s implications.

In a letter to Apple chief executive Tim Cook, Senator Al Franken expressed concerns about privacy and security with FaceID and asked for more information about the safeguards the company has in place to protect consumers.

“While details on the device and its reliance on facial recognition technology are still emerging, I am encouraged by the steps that Apple states it has taken to implement the system responsibly,” Franken wrote. “However, substantial questions remain about how FaceID will impact iPhone users’ privacy and security, and whether the technology will perform equally well on different groups of people. To offer clarity to the millions of Americans who use your products, I ask that you provide more information on how the company has processed these issues internally, as well as any additional steps that it intends to take to protect its users.”

FaceID on the new iPhone X is expected to transform how people interact with their smartphones. The technology learns a user’s face as he or she looks at the phone and is the key to unlocking the device. Franken is worried that all of the faceprints Apple will collect to unlock the iPhone X could be used to help other businesses or sold to third parties for surveillance purpose. What’s more, FaceID could result in law enforcement requesting access to the biometric systems. Franken is concerned all of these and more could hurt consumers’ privacy.  

Franken has a bevy of questions he wants answered by Oct. 13, including whether Apple will ever decide to store the facial images remotely, what steps it took to make sure the system was trained on diverse sets of faces and what assurances the company could provide that it won’t sell the face data to third parties.

“Unlike a password, an individual’s faceprint is permanent, public and uniquely identifies its owner,” he wrote. “As a result, should a bad actor gain access to the faceprint data that Face ID requires, the ramifications could last forever, particularly if Apple’s biometric technology comes to be used in other devices and settings.”