Apple on Monday updated its official privacy page, specifically adding a new technical White paper document which outlines the various ins and outs of Face ID. The document, which fills six whole pages of text, explains how Apple’s futuristic, biometric facial recognition system for iPhone X will not only be able to learn from its user over time (making it more effective and secure), but how Apple has your back in the event of a Face ID fail.
Apple’s Senior Vice President of software engineering, Craig Federighi, briefly mentioned the existence of this document at his company’s September event — and now it appears we know the inside scoop, through and through.
How Will Face ID Work?
In a nutshell, Face ID will work on iPhone X similar to how Touch ID works on other iPhone models; instead of storing fingerprints, however, the system will store a user’s ‘faceprint’, as its known, ultimately using the selfie-style image to create an intentionally incomplete ‘template’ of a users’ face.
Known as the ‘enrollment image’, this template will then be used and continuously updated with new faceprint data to compare against future faceprints. In other words, this means that Face ID will periodically update your faceprint model by incorporating new data (collected through random, successive login attempts) to make your faceprint even more secure.
While Apple insists that faceprint images “will never leave a user’s iPhone,” they’ll apparently help make Face ID a more spoof-proof mechanism over time — ensuring that the system doesn’t get thrown off by subtle changes in appearance. For example, even if they decided to grow a beard or got a new haircut, Face ID will still be able to recognize and authenticate a user despite those subtle changes in their physical appearance.
“To improve unlock performance and keep pace with the natural changes of your face and look, Face ID augments its stored mathematical representation over time,” Apple’s white paper explains. “Upon successful unlock, Face ID may use the newly calculated mathematical representation for a finite number of additional unlocks before that data is discarded.”
But What If Face ID Fails?
Of course, since technology fails sometimes, regardless of whether Apple created it, the company has added in a sub-section of information towards the end of its document dubbed “Face ID Diagnostics.” This section essentially outlines the step-by-step process by which users who’ve encountered a Face ID fail will be able to reset their enrollment image and start over.
With Apple’s help, if necessary, users will be able to enter Face ID Diagnostics from their iPhone X, and will then be required to send in any faceprint images to Apple for examination — so as to determine which, if any, might be throwing Face ID off. It’s a fairly involved process for a standard ‘customer support’ request, to be sure, but it’s nevertheless encouraging to see Apple take Face ID security so seriously.