How safe is your Face ID with Apple's iPhone X?
THIRTY years ago the Hawke-Keating Labor government suggested the introduction of a national identity card, complete with name, photograph and signature for all citizens over 18.
It was argued it would help crack down on illegal immigrants and welfare fraud.
Despite emphasising privacy and security safeguards, there was an uproar and the photo card idea was abandoned for an Australia Card without a photo.
Even that failed to pass the Senate and was abandoned by the government in 1987.
Fast forward to 2017 and now it seems we're all happy to share all our details, including where we travel and shop, where we go online, to giants like Google and Apple.
The release of the iPhone X with sophisticated facial identification technology has taken that a giant step forward and left some wondering how safe is our privacy.
Apple says it has gone to incredible lengths to ensure that Face ID information is not shared or can in any way be targeted by hackers.
If anything, it argues that it strengthens people's privacy by making it nearly impossible for others to access their phone, messages or private information.
Using its Touch ID system, Apple says the chances of being hacked is one in 50,000.
With Face ID, that chance diminishes to one in 1 million.
Already major firms including banks and online retailers are switching from touch to facial recognition to decrease the risk of fraud.
SO HOW DOES IT ALL WORK?
Unlike the Australia Card, there is no 'photo' taken of your face.
iPhone X's TrueDepth camera captures accurate face data by projecting and analysing more than 30,000 invisible dots to create a depth map of your face. It also captures an infrared image of your face.
"A portion of the A11 Bionic chip's neural engine - protected within the Secure Enclave - transforms the depth map and infrared image into a mathematical representation and compares that representation to the enrolled facial data,'' Apple says in a statement on the technology.
"Face ID automatically adapts to changes in your appearance, such as wearing cosmetic makeup or growing facial hair.
"If there is a more significant change in your appearance, like shaving a full beard, Face ID confirms your identity by using your passcode before it updates your face data."
It is designed to work with hats, scarves, glasses, contact lenses, and most sunglasses, even in total darkness.
We've been using Face ID for the past few days and it works very quickly.
I wear glasses - something that proved a stumbling block to facial recognition on Samsung's flagship Note8 - to the point where I gave up.
In contrast, Apple's Face ID works very well - including when making purchases at stores using Apple Pay.
The only issue is if you are too far away from your phone.
Apple says it works best when the device is arm's length or less from your face (25-50 cm away from your face).
The tech giant also points out that the data that makes Face ID work always remains on your phone, is encrypted and protected with a key available only to the Secure Enclave.
It is not shared to Apple's servers or used to match other data from your phone.
So can't someone just use your face or a photo to unlock your phone?
Apple says Face ID uses far more detailed information than that found in a print or even a 2D digital photograph.
"Face ID is even attention-aware. It recognises if your eyes are open and looking towards the device. This makes it more difficult for someone to unlock your iPhone without your knowledge (such as when you are sleeping)."
There are also other safeguards, including the use of your passcode.
That has to be used when:
• The device has just been turned on or restarted.
• The device hasn't been unlocked for more than 48 hours.
• The passcode hasn't been used to unlock the device in the last six and a half days and Face ID hasn't unlocked the device in the last 4 hours.
• The device has received a remote lock command.
• After five unsuccessful attempts to match a face.
• After initiating power off/Emergency SOS by pressing and holding either volume button and the side button simultaneously for 2 seconds.
What if you don't want to use Face ID?
You can disable it at any time.
If you don't want to use Face ID to unlock your iPhone, open Settings > Face ID & Passcode > Use Face ID, and disable iPhone Unlock.
To disable Face ID, open Settings > Face ID & Passcode, and tap Reset Face ID. Doing so will delete Face ID data, including mathematical representations of your face, from your device.
If you choose to erase or reset your device using Find My iPhone or erasing all content and settings, all Face ID data will be deleted.
So far for me, however, Face ID has delivered more privacy, including when notifications pop up on my phone. Their contents only display when the phone is unlocked.
My son, however, is not a fan, particularly as he now has to enter my passcode to open my phone to play music.
Unlike with Touch ID, you can't add a second face to your phone.