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'Dear Apple, The iPhone X and Face ID Are Orwellian and Creepy' (hackernoon.com) 441

Trent Lapinski from Hacker Noon writes an informal letter to Apple, asking "who the hell actually asked for Face ID?" and calling the iPhone X and new face-scanning security measure "Orwellian" and "creepy": For the company that famously used 1984 in its advertising to usher in a new era of personal computing, it is pretty ironic that 30+ years later they would announce technology that has the potential to eliminate global privacy. I've been waiting 10-years since the first iPhone was announced for a full-screen device that is both smaller in my hand but has a larger display and higher capacity battery. However, I do not want these features at the cost of my privacy, and the privacy of those around me. While the ease of use and user experience of Face ID is apparent, I am not questioning that, the privacy concerns are paramount in today's world of consistent security breaches. Given what we know from Wikileaks Vault7 and the CIA / NSA capabilities to hijack any iPhone, including any sensor on the phone, the very thought of handing any government a facial ID system for them to hack into is a gift the world may never be able to return. Face ID will have lasting privacy implications from 2017 moving forward, and I'm pretty sure I am not alone in not wanting to participate.

The fact of the matter is the iPhone X does not need Face ID, Apple could have easily put a Touch ID sensor on the back of the phone for authentication (who doesn't place their finger on the back of their phone?). I mean imagine how cool it would be to put your finger on the Apple logo on the back of your iPhone for Touch ID? It would have been a highly marketable product feature that is equally as effective as Face ID without the escalating Orwellian privacy implications. [...] For Face ID to work, the iPhone X actively has to scan faces looking for its owner when locked. This means anyone within a several foot range of an iPhone X will get their face scanned by other people's phones and that's just creepy.

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'Dear Apple, The iPhone X and Face ID Are Orwellian and Creepy'

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  • Whiner (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Who asked for the original Macintosh or iPhone either? People often don't know what they've been missing out on until you show it to them. This person obviously doesn't understand Apple's history and the way they operate.
    • Or technology period.

    • Re:Whiner (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 21, 2017 @10:22PM (#55242051)

      Who asked for the original Macintosh or iPhone either?

      Neither of those require giving up private information for a product. Do we need facial rec. to unlock a stupid phone? Heck, no. You could easily come up with a dozen, quick means to unlock a phone, that did not involve privacy violation. So we can assume this method was deliberately chosen to invade the privacy of users.

      • Re:Whiner (Score:4, Insightful)

        by conquistadorst ( 2759585 ) on Friday September 22, 2017 @08:46AM (#55243595)

        Neither of those require giving up private information for a product. Do we need facial rec. to unlock a stupid phone? Heck, no. You could easily come up with a dozen, quick means to unlock a phone, that did not involve privacy violation. So we can assume this method was deliberately chosen to invade the privacy of users.

        I typically hate the response I'm about to give since I've always felt it to be a cover-all-cop-out but this time I think this is an instance where it does apply. You're under no obligation to buy it. If they miscalculate a technology or marketing decision, you and everyone else should "punish" them by simply not buying the phone. Corporations aren't democratic. At best, you can stretch them to qualify as a republic with money being your elected representative. We can sit here and criticize them all day but if the phone sells like hot cakes because people love this feature, then we're just wrong.

    • Re:Whiner (Score:4, Informative)

      by lucm ( 889690 ) on Thursday September 21, 2017 @10:38PM (#55242103)

      People often don't know what they've been missing out on until you show it to them.

      It's nothing new. For instance, face unlock was available on Alienware laptops 7+ years ago and has been common on Samsung devices for a while. The fact that Apple users "discover" that in September 2017 says a lot about this brand and their customer base.

      • Windows Hello (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Thursday September 21, 2017 @10:45PM (#55242121) Journal
        It's also available for Microsoft Surface devices which just goes to show how much things have changed. Now it's no problem when MS does it but when Apple does it's "Orwellian and creepy".
        • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

          Or is it actually more like "Brave New World"?

      • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

        Toshiba laptops going back to the WinXP/Win7 crossover, so about 8-9 years. You bought a Satellite Pro with Win7 installed and facial recognition available. If you initiated a factory restore and chose XP, facial recognition wasn't available/installed. Not very reliable so I switched it off.

        Also available on my Motorola RAZR HD from 2013. I trained it with and without glasses, with and without beard, and it works reliably nearly everywhere and everywhen, except...... first thing in the morning. Doesn't like

      • Never mind the detail that the iPhone X facial recognition is a LOT more complex than to my knowledge any other customer level gadget out there. Apple was rarely the first in anything, but we have to respect that by and large they thoroughly engineer a feature before releasing it.
      • by zieroh ( 307208 )

        It's nothing new. For instance, face unlock was available on Alienware laptops 7+ years ago and has been common on Samsung devices for a while. The fact that Apple users "discover" that in September 2017 says a lot about this brand and their customer base.

        I think if you'll take a closer look at the actual implementation, you'll find that they're not at all similar. But please, don't let that stop you from being smug.

  • by Archvile7 ( 964553 ) on Thursday September 21, 2017 @09:34PM (#55241877)
    This article is so stupid. The author clearly has no idea how existing biometrics that Apple offers work. Touch ID stores information in a secure element, and nowhere else. No cloud, no device transfer methods, nothing - it is On Device only. Face ID is no different. In fact, it doesnâ(TM)t even store images of your face - it reduces your faceâ(TM)s geometry to a mathematical equation that is literally impossible to reverse engineer, due to the high levels of iOS hardware security. Read the damn iOS Security Guide, published and updated by Apple - it is FULL if information on how this stuff works, how keys are handled, how the Secure Enclave works, how encryption works across the OS and user data, itâ(TM)s a great read and would put these inane âoefearsâ to rest simply by understanding how it works. âoePeoples will always fear what they donâ(TM)t understandâ
    • by viperidaenz ( 2515578 ) on Thursday September 21, 2017 @09:46PM (#55241923)

      Just a month ago the encryption key for the Secure Enclave firmware on the iPhone 5S's was found.
      While it doesn't mean someone can remote access the data from it, it does mean someone could load their own firmware on to an iPhone 5S's Secure Enclave. It also means the firmware can be analysed for vulnerabilities.

      IT may be extremely difficult to get in to it, but I wouldn't go as far as saying its "literally impossible to reverse engineer, due to the high levels of iOS hardware security".

      Sure, it's a high level of security, but nothing is perfect.

      • correct he's insane and has written for the clickbait without any knowledge of the systems or potential

      • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday September 22, 2017 @01:36AM (#55242549) Homepage

        Just a month ago the encryption key for the Secure Enclave firmware on the iPhone 5S's was found. While it doesn't mean someone can remote access the data from it, it does mean someone could load their own firmware on to an iPhone 5S's Secure Enclave.

        Hell no, lies and FUD. It just means someone has found the decryption key embedded in every copy of the Secure Enclave that Apple has used to obfuscate the code in transit. The updates are still signed, the signature check can't be disabled and the signing key only exists in Apple HQ, hackers can now begin to analyze the binary but there's no way for anyone else to alter it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You know what I fear? The fact that we're in 2017 and Slashdot still doesn't support UTF-8.

    • Archville7 is incredibly correct here and deserves +9999 modpoints for pointing out the hysterics and idiocy of the OP.

      Just wanted to extend this with more details.

      When the OP asks, "Who was wanting FaceID?" I can help with that.

      Physical buttons on consumer hardware are expensive. I mean that in terms of production, warranty, maintenance, and customer satisfaction. I mean that last one in terms not in usability, but in terms of anger of out-of-warranty broken buttons rendering a device useless. This is
      • They already removed the button in last year's model. The iPhone 7 (and 8) have a touchID sensor on the lower bezel, but the home button itself has been replaced by haptic feedback.

        I don't have any moral opposition to Face ID, just some practical arguments against it; more parts to fail than a Touch ID sensor, potential issues in direct sunlight, less convenient for quick payments, easier for an attacker to capture your face surreptitiously than your fingerprints.

        In any event, Apple should give users the op

        • by zieroh ( 307208 )

          They already removed the button in last year's model. The iPhone 7 (and 8) have a touchID sensor on the lower bezel, but the home button itself has been replaced by haptic feedback.

          What, you think that's cheaper than a mechanical button?

          • by JonBoy47 ( 2813759 ) on Friday September 22, 2017 @01:26AM (#55242527)

            The iPhone 7/8 Touch ID sensor innately provides proximity/pressure sensitivity without need of moving parts. The sole value add function of the physical button is to provide tactile feedback to the user. By replacing the tactile feedback with haptic feedback using the vibration motor, Apple was able to eliminate all the moving parts from the home button, eliminating a significant source of repair claims on the entire device.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Dude, even easier, don't use it. Just configure the security the way you want to roll, don't like the biometrics don't configure them and don't use them, they are not compulsory. As for the phone itself, if you need to buy apps to make it functional buy Android, there are a whole bunch of phones, you do not need to buy one app for, they are fully functional out of the box. Don't know how broad the base apps for iphones are and whether or not you can do every from calendar and appointments to fully featured

        • I think your "future" has already arrive on the Apple website. If you get too negative, then your comment will be blocked. I think it's based on automatic sentiment analysis, but there might be a personalized element there, based on my prior negative comments. Most of them involved annoying problems with the voice dictation. I posted a longer description elsewhere in this discussion, but your comment was the only one to mention censorship.

    • Iâ(TM)m not claiming youâ(TM)re wrong or anything but I canâ(TM)t help but get the feeling you âoecopypastaâd your post. ;)

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      Uh huh. Do we trust Apple?

  • A good enough mask or disguise can open your devices now.
  • If Mr. Lapinski (the blogger) thinks this will have any significant effect on governments' efforts and success to incorporate facial recognition in the approaching Orwellian utopia, then he is nuts.

    On the other hand, I agree that a touch ID on the back would have been nicer. Mostly because I don't want to have to aim my phone in a certain direction for it to unlock.

  • Get a grip (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeMo ( 521697 ) on Thursday September 21, 2017 @09:40PM (#55241905)
    This guy is just making stuff up. First off, he has no idea if people around the phone owner also get scanned. Secondly, Apple doesn't take a picture of anyone, only a hash of a mathematical representation of the 3D scan of the facial contours created from the 3D projector. And finally, it doesn't send that (irreversible) hash anywhere - it stores it internally in the Secure Enclave, so it wouldn't even matter if they *where* scanning other faces.

    Get a grip, man, I'm sure you can find other things to hate them for, you don't have to make stuff up!

    Why didn't anyone hate on Samsung for *actually* taking pictures?
    • Re:Get a grip (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gabest ( 852807 ) on Thursday September 21, 2017 @09:49PM (#55241947)
      Because only evil Chinese and Russian companies work with their government.
      • Re:Get a grip (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cmseagle ( 1195671 ) on Friday September 22, 2017 @07:34AM (#55243383)

        Except that Apple doesn't say "We don't work with the government. Promise."

        Apple says "Our products fundamentally limit the ways in which we can work with the government, even if we try or are coerced." The recent leak of the 5s Secure Enclave firmware should allow independent verification of that fact.

  • Nonsense really (Score:2, Interesting)

    by burtosis ( 1124179 )
    No one is forcing you to use the sensor and a simple piece of tape or a case can obscure it. To be honest the cops forcing people to touch unlock thier phones is probably what moved apple to this approach and the reason I've never used the touch sensor. The touch sensor was actually a bigger security hole because it appears they won't yet be able to force you to facial unlock the phone. I'll never use the facial scanner if I do get one, however a miniature infrared lidar sensor in my phone would have re
    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      No one is forcing you to use the sensor and a simple piece of tape or a case can obscure it.

      Yeah, because people want to put tape on their 1000 dollar phone. And cases are generally designed to work not to block, so they'll have a hole where a hole is required.

      To be honest the cops forcing people to touch unlock their phones is probably what moved apple to this approach and the reason I've never used the touch sensor. The touch sensor was actually a bigger security hole because it appears they won't yet be able to force you to facial unlock the phone.

      Under what legal theory are you operating under? Why can't they can't hold your phone up to your face to unlock it?

      • They can't force you to look at it, keep both eyes open, not contort your face, etc. after two tries it goes to passcode. IANAL but my understanding is there is no legal precedent yet.
        • Also just like people have manual covers for a laptop camera, I expect cases to have them as well. If not I'll make some myself and sell them.
        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          Depends on the country. Some can "ask" a court (not the person) for DNA, a blood test, other medical tests.
          Why not ask for a court to request that "look" to unlock?
          If no later security was enabled after the needed face thats how police will try to get in.
          Another neat law change makes just keeping encryption the crime.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Original comment: "it appears they won't yet be able to force you to facial unlock the phone"

          Follow-up comment: "IANAL but my understanding is there is no legal precedent yet."

          These claims are not remotely in agreement. In fact, they are opposites: If there is no legal precedent one way or the other, then of course police will take the presumed liberty to do whatever they want, and dare the courts to stop. And in many cases not even then. That's like, almost the entire history of policing in a nutshell.

  • I've been thinking about the coming sensor wave for some time, and what I've concluded is this: give people something genuinely more convenient, and they will trade it for slightly more risk, every time. It won't even be close.

    Why? Because people intuitively want to use ALL their senses to control their environment. It's something they've been doing their entire lives, and your typical computer interface really stinks by comparison. Heck, even something mundane like driving a car provides a hugely richer control experience than using any smartphone app you can name.

    Computer-human interfaces suck. You can't fight progress in this area.

    • I've been thinking about the coming sensor wave for some time, and what I've concluded is this: give people something genuinely more convenient, and they will trade it for slightly more risk, every time. It won't even be close.

      So is the "coming sensor wave" genuinely more convenient?

      Why? Because people intuitively want to use ALL their senses to control their environment. It's something they've been doing their entire lives, and your typical computer interface really stinks by comparison.

      Seems quite a lot of people would rather send text messages than talk on a phone.

      Only a small minority seem to have much interest at all in video phones.

      It's increasingly popular for people to buy things from flat 2d websites rather than shop in real life and numerous experiments at 3Dish interfaces for virtual shopping malls..etc. have failed without any fanfare due to lack of interest.

      Heck, even something mundane like driving a car provides a hugely richer control experience than using any smartphone app you can name.

      This must explain why they are always reaching for their phones w

  • The security services have voice prints if a person is within 4 hops of anyone of interest to any security service.
    Use a pay phone, VOIP, cell phone, new cell phone, that older cell phone that can still connect...
    The security services don't care as long as the interesting person is still using a service that offers collect it all access.
    The PRISM surveillance program https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] showed what could be done.
    New or old hardware, the trick is keeping the wider population talking. Any
  • If I can understand this guy's ramblings, he doesn't like that FaceID is so powerful, and he wishes he could unlock his iPhone X another way.

    So stick some tape over the front facing camera and use a passcode. Get over it. People have been doing this with their laptop cameras for years.

    Even if his argument was based in reality, which I'm not sure it is, there's a well-known work-around.

  • by Atmchicago ( 555403 ) on Thursday September 21, 2017 @10:58PM (#55242157)
    Don't buy it.
  • Dear Apple and Microsoft users. Maybe if you care about freedoms, you should be supporting platforms which respect you as a user and support your right to privacy and freedom. Sincerely, someone who doesn't compromise their integrity by using systems which are broken by design. All of this was foretold, all of this was preventable, and yet people chose to vote against their own interests with their wallets, and they now reap what they have sown.
    • by zieroh ( 307208 )

      Dear Apple and Microsoft users. Maybe if you care about freedoms, you should be supporting platforms which respect you as a user and support your right to privacy and freedom. Sincerely, someone who doesn't compromise their integrity by using systems which are broken by design.

      Better than using a system that is broken by by lack of design, which is what Linux is. And I like Linux. But if you think I'm going to use it on my laptop as my main interface to the world, you need to stop smoking crack.

  • when October 31st rolls around and everyone who has an iPhone 10 and is wearing a mask discovers that they have to take off part of their costume just to make a phone call. If part of their get-up is heavily applied makeup and/or latex, they may not be able to use their phones at all without pretty much destroying their disguise. In addition to Hallowe'en there are also Mardi Gras, parades, high school plays, and on and on.

    A phone that's constantly scanning even strangers' faces without their consent is rud

    • by xlsior ( 524145 )
      ...If it doesn't recognize you, you can still get in simply by entering your PIN -- no one is getting locked out.
    • by zieroh ( 307208 ) on Friday September 22, 2017 @12:33AM (#55242433)

      when October 31st rolls around and everyone who has an iPhone 10 and is wearing a mask discovers that they have to take off part of their costume just to make a phone call.

      I'm guessing you don't work on anything more complicated than a horoscope generator, then. Clearly, the fallback in this case would be the passcode. Did you seriously not consider that? And because you didn't actually consider that possibility, did you seriously not consider that Apple engineers would consider it? Or were you just trying to score snark points?

      Seriously, which is it? I want to know.

  • Not mandatory (Score:4, Insightful)

    by seven of five ( 578993 ) on Friday September 22, 2017 @12:04AM (#55242357)
    Don't like face ID?
    Use a passcode. Or no security at all...
  • by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Friday September 22, 2017 @12:23AM (#55242415)

    OMG, this door thing is creepy. There's a window where someone can look at me but I can't look at them, and they need to actually let me in! I can't just walk into a cave anymore! WTF!

  • but you can't burn your face (or you shouldn't). How hard would it be to 3d print a missing dead guy's face? They'll have the data for it soon. Someone should make a Game of Thrones God of many faces parody for this. And you know, Facefarm is somehow going to find a way to be 5x's more creepy with this tech than Apple some how. They always find a way. I say we use our private parts to unlock our phones. I'd actually feel safer and it's not like the iPhone 11 won't be getting semen samples next, so mind as
  • I wonder if the author minds that every store that he shops in and restaurant that he visits records his face on their video surveillance systems? Sure, maybe it's 2D instead of 3D, but much more pervasive.

  • I'll agree with the author with one single thing: it really isn't good that the face recognition tech is getting normalized and spread out as much, which is something that Apple tends to do through it's cult like fanbase and media love affair.

    But let's be realistic for a moment here. First of all, public security cameras are already a thing, plus dashcams in some countries. And plenty of relatively good software for face recognition and identification are already out there, in real time and without any need for special cameras. In fact, we're already over face recognition and now encroaching on general recognition which is a full complexity step beyond it. Software that can use real time input of regular cameras to identify not only face, but also objects, animals, landscapes, even with some interpretation about the data. Not only that, the tech and code is already open source:
    https://pjreddie.com/darknet/y... [pjreddie.com]
    For this particular application of surveillance technology, Apple isn't going to make much of a difference with a Face ID thing in their smartphones... we're already past Orwellian surveillance.

    Second, iPhone X isn't even the first to do it. Samsung already had both face recognition and iris recognition in the failed Note S7, current S8, Note 8 and one Galaxy Tab. Not to mention how Microsoft came with Windows Hello years ago. So the timeframe for panicking has already passed if it's about personal devices with facial scanners.

    The tech is already here, and no matter what one or another company does, it will be developed and used. Unfortunately, governments, policies and law hasn't quite catched up to the dangers of so much erosion of privacy, but we'll eventually have to get there, probably not without a very horrible round of feeling the consequences of living in a society that doesn't have almost any privacy protection anymore.

    But like I said, it's too late to panic. In fact, it's the sort of short sightedness that lead us to this situation. If people are really feeling creeped out only now because Apple released some new phone with a whole bunch of old tech borrowed from past devices, then people are really trailing behind times.

    Apple even sometimes tries to save face posing as a costumer friendly corporation that cares for stuff like privacy, but that's not where people should be looking at. It's governments, governmental agencies, the frequent overstepping of citizens rights, all the revelations that came from multiple whistleblower cases... you see, nothing is changing. There is no public outcry and outrage. The Snowden leaks would have to have ended in a complete revolution and overturning of political power to stop something like an Orwellian dystopia. It's too late now. It certainly won't be as obvious or as clear as in, say, the 1984 novel, but it's already happening, make no mistake.

    You can have absolute certainty that DARPA is probably already funding multiple projects for robots and cameras with advanced facial and object recognition cameras to be potentially deployed in several scenarios in the future. You can bet that autonomous cars in the future will do double duty in identifying people and potential criminal scenarios. We already live in a suveillance state, and things are only going to get worse, particularly with governments that are all about bravado, show of strength, and activelly persecuting citizens inside of their own nation because of their skin color or previous nationality. Apple is but a drop in the ocean.

  • The OP is clearly ignorant of how the secure enclave works, or really any of the concept of operations of the Touch ID and/or Face ID sensors. Touch ID and Face ID both require the setting of a minimum 6 digit passcode for the device, as a backstop for the biometric sensor. The passcode is required for unlock after a device is rebooted, if the device ever goes more than 48 hours without being unlocked, and after 5 consecutive unsuccessful unlock attempts using the biometric sensor. FFS Craig Federighi (unin

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday September 22, 2017 @04:31AM (#55242943)

    I honestly don't get it. And I would really love to understand, I do.

    What I can observe is that iPhones lose features that I would actually use and gain features that I can't really identify a sensible use for. In other words, to me they become inferior with every incarnation.

    I can only assume that this is not the case in general, because the newer models of iPhones still sell in approximately the same number as the older models did when they came out. There has to be a reason for this. And please refrain from trolling like "because people are dumb", that's rarely the case. There are certainly cases of people who'd buy anything from brand X because ... reasons, but after 2-3 models of getting increasingly inferior products, they would stop doing it. So they actually must deem those products satisfactory.

    And this is the part I don't get.

    Do people really want these features? The unlock-by-fingerprint, unlock-by-face and the other recent additions that I'd call gimmicks at best and security risks at worst? While at the same time not missing the ability to attach headphones, replace the battery (or any part for that matter), use the software of their choice instead of what the vendor deems "appropriate" and so many other things where I simply cannot fathom why one would put up with it.

    What the hell is the appeal of this thing? I got used to not fully understanding the motivation humans have, but why they actually consider newer models of iPhones superior to their (in my opinion) more versatile and useful older models completely puzzles me.

  • The Apple website (on several occasions) rejects my negative comments. Usually I'll be trying to describe my problem and the context, but at some point I apparently become too negative and the Apple website says it can't save the draft, and once that happens, whatever I've written cannot be posted. Doesn't seem possible to undo or reset the flag, whatever it is.

    Has anyone else experienced this? If you are asking a question or making a comment in the Apple "Discussions", but your tone becomes too negative, then your comment suddenly becomes unpublishable? I suppose it could be based on human moderation, but I know that some of the sentiment analysis systems are becoming powerful enough to do it automatically without expensive and clumsy human beings in the loop.

    Details of my most recent experience at https://slashdot.org/journal/2... [slashdot.org], but this isn't the first time I've seen it. I think Apple has decided they need to control the tone of discussions or no one will pay $1,000 for their latest and greatest iPhone.

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