If Apple’s FaceID Works With Masks On, Will That Reduce Your Security?
Apple’s FaceID technology has made it a lot easier for you to get into your iPhone or iPad. Swipe up while looking at the device.
It doesn’t get much easier than that.
FaceID Must See Your Face
It comes as no surprise (hopefully) that FaceID needs to see you face in order to work. If you’re wearing a scarf or mask, it won’t work.
This has been a challenge for those of us who have deep winters since the start. But with the onset of the pandemic, everyone else started to be impacted.
To be clear, that impact isn’t very significant.
Instead of looking at the device and swiping up, you now have to swipe up and type in your passcode.
Most people don’t use a passphrase which means they are typing in six digits. More work than a look, but hardly a show stopper.
The most frustrating part of the process wasn’t so much typing in your passcode but the delay as your iPhone tries to figuring out if you are actually you by scanning your face.
A few months back in iOS 13.5, Apple added mask detection to FaceID. When the system determined that you were wearing a mask, it would prompt you for your passcode.
This saved only a second but that made a world of difference.
FaceID Using A Mask
Now, Apple is in the late stages of testing an update to FaceID. This will allow you to login fully wearing a mask.
This opt-in feature will reduce the accuracy of FaceID but shouldn’t impact your security in any meaningful way.
Right now, FaceID uses the TrueDepth camera to map your face using over 30,000 different data points.
That data is then mapped to a specific model that trades perfect accuracy to allow for a reasonable amount of variation. If you’ve had a rough night, didn’t shave, or just paid a visit to the dentist, FaceID still works.
Those trade offs means that there’s a one in a million chance of someone else being able to unlock your phone with their face.
Smart Trade Off
Using FaceID with a mask combines the mask detection feature with a more generous tolerance for matching your face. This will increase those odds an unspecified amount.
However, combined with the limit of five FaceID attempts before prompting for a passcode, requiring a passcode after a reboot, and other protections, this feature should only improve the usability of your device without significantly increasing your risk.