Apple may claim that Face ID is its most secure biometrics system yet, but Sen. Al Franken wants the proof.
In a letter to Apple sent Wednesday, the Minnesota Democrat raised questions about whether Apple might use the faceprints it gathers to “benefit other sectors of its business, sell it to third parties for surveillance purposes, or receive law enforcement requests to access it facial recognition system — eventual uses that may not be contemplated by Apple customers.”
While Apple has noted that face data will be stores on individual devices, rather than an Apple-run cloud server, Franken still wants more details to be made clear. This includes whether Apple can, “either remotely or through physical access to the device” obtain the data in a way that could also be used by law enforcement.
In addition, Franken wants to know whether Apple might change its stated terms that it “has no plans” to allow third party applications to access Face ID, as well as asking for more details about Apple’s security measures. Finally, he’s interested in where Apple obtained the billion+ scans it used to train its facial recognition software, and whether the system is well enough trained to ID different genders, races, and ages without bias.
You can read the full letter here.
Apple’s fight for privacy
While Apple hasn’t yet shared this information regarding Face ID, the company has previously fought on the opposite side to lawmakers when it comes to snooping from law enforcement. Most notably, Apple had a privacy vs. security standoff with the FBI over the San Bernardino shooting case in 2016 when the FBI requested that Apple created an iPhone backdoor for law enforcement.
Apple also doesn’t generate billions of dollars from ad data in the same way that rivals like Google do. In a 2014 interview with Charlie Rose, Apple CEO Tim Cook spelled out Apple’s policy on this subject by stating that: “You [the customer] are not our product. I think everyone has to ask, ‘How do companies make their money?’ Follow the money. And if [tech companies are] making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried and you should really understand what’s happening with that data.”
With that said, we’d love to hear more details from Apple and the way in which it trained its facial recognition software, for our own interest as much as anything else.
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