Convenience vs. Security: Is the New iPhone Worth the Identity Risks?

Media Division | September 27, 2017

When Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone ten years ago, he said it was “five years ahead of any other mobile phone.” If the iPhone was your first smartphone experience, it was like living in the future. You could be at dinner with friends, decide to go see a movie, watch trailers and make a decision, and then get directions to the nearest theater showing that selection…all from your phone. So for its tenth anniversary, Apple needed to unveil something big. And it did… sort of.

Some Improved Features

If there’s one thing Apple is known for, it’s sleek aesthetics. From the look of their stores to the streamlined edges of all of their MacBooks, Apple wins the visual design points. So the new iPhone 8 and X (said “iPhone ten,” as in the Roman numeral, not the letter “x”), needed design enhancements.

By all accounts, the new OLED display is indeed breathtakingly beautiful. Of course, certain Android phones have had that kind of display since last year, but it’s still really gorgeous. The camera you use for selfies has improved…which is super important, to some people. But then, the other cameras have improved as well. On the 8 Plus and the iPhone X, you get OIS and image stabilization.

That animoji thing (that we can thank SnapChat for starting), is a big feature of all the new models. You can turn your face into an expressive cat or dog…which isn’t creepy at all. Wireless charging is now finally an Apple thing as well, although they haven’t yet unveiled their own planned charging mat. The longtime protester of universal charging has finally succeeded to an element of uniformity.

Convenience vs. Security

If there’s another thing Apple is known for its convenience, in a visually-streamlined way. So the new iPhone X has lost its home screen button, opting instead for a swipe from below. The other new feature that’s got everyone talking is the facial recognition system (and what that means for identity theft protection). Laptops have pioneered facial recognition technology for years. The problems have been there since day one. For example, researchers proved that holding up a picture of the owner was enough to unlock their device.

Apple claims their new facial recognition technology operates differently–it projects hundreds of little-infrared dots onto your face and will take 3D readings before unlocking (and yet unlock as quickly as touch ID did). It reportedly will recognize you, despite wearing (or not wearing) glasses, growing facial hair, aging, etc. That means that only an identical twin should be able to unlock your iPhone.

Except that other inherent flaws have already surfaced:

  • With the prevalence of 3D printing technology, could someone take your publicly available photos, (from social media), and 3D print a copy of your face?
  • Even at the reveal, Apple conceded that 1 in one million random faces (in testing) could unlock the device. What if someone looks remarkably like you, do the odds go up?
  • If you are mugged/robbed/detained by police, and they point the device at you, doesn’t it just unlock without your permission? (A security feature lets you push the side button 5 times to disable FaceID, but would you do that under pressure)?
  • If you are the victim of identity theft, you can change passwords, but what do you do about changing your face?

These questions mean that the first iPhone X users will be paying a grand ($999 starting price) to be security guinea pigs.

Prevent Identity Theft

If you do decide to partake of the new iPhone X, prevent identity theft by opting for the old-fashioned 6 digit security code.

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