What you need to know
- Face ID doesn't work when a user wears a mask.
- Some have called on Apple to tweak Face ID to make it work even when a face is obscured.
- But Apple has now said that it doesn't want to reduce Face ID security.
With all of us (hopefully) wearing masks right now it's become apparent that Face ID doesn't work when the face is covered. Nor should it, with Face ID needing to take a 3D map of the face for it to be confident that the person it's looking at is someone it should authenticate. Apple could tone down the security, but it doesn't want to.
That's something that I've long suspected and now Apple has confirmed as much in an interview with German outlet Stern that was spotted by 9to5Mac. According to Apple's vice president of platform architecture Tim Millet, Apple does have ideas for making Face ID work with masks – it just doesn't like the idea of making it less secure.
"It's hard to see something you can't see. The face recognition models are really good, but it's a tricky problem. Users want convenience, but they also want to be safe. And at Apple, it's all about making sure that the data stays secure."
"We can think of techniques that don't involve the part of the face that is covered by the mouth-nose protection," Millet explains. "But then you lose some of the features that make your face unique, which in turn makes it easier to imagine that someone could unlock the phone."
None of this might be a problem eventually, however. With the new iPad Air featuring a Touch ID sensor in its sleep/wake button, it's likely a similar thing will eventually come to iPhone. This year? Probably not. But eventually, it seems likely that wearing a mask and using an iPhone won't be the pain that it is right now.