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Privacy Expert: Apple’s Facial-Recognition Raises ‘Special Concerns’

The new feature is widely speculated to be part of the iPhone 8, expected to be unveiled September 12.

Apple Facial Recognition

Apple is expected to unveil its latest iteration of the tech giant’s popular mobile device, the iPhone 8, next month. But before it does, reports about features contained on the new phone are raising concerns among privacy experts.

The iPhone 8 is rumored to have a facial-recognition feature that would allow users to unlock their phones simply by looking at them. It’s an advancement of the company’s Touch ID feature, which uses an iPhone owner’s thumbprint to unlock the device. Axios has more:

Unlike the glitch-prone facial recognition technologies that are out there, such as the iris reader on the Samsung Galaxy S8, the facial recognition on the new iPhone has been trained to seamlessly handle things like eyeglasses and easily adjust to changes in appearance such as beards and mustaches, sources said. It’s also extremely fast. And no, it’s not likely to be fooled by a photograph, sources say.

But experts focused on civil liberties and privacy are far less enthusiastic than Axios reporter Ina Fried, who did not once mention privacy concerns in her story Thursday.

Mashable spoke to Adam Schwartz, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who specializes in privacy issues. He explained that the facial-recognition feature would always be on, and therefore always gathering information:

“In general, ‘always on’ products raise special concerns,” Schwartz explained over the phone. He emphasized that “always on” features translate to always gathering information.

“Once the always-on device gathers information, it may be available to many kinds of people, contrary to the user’s intentions,” Schwartz said.

“These include external data thieves, who may break into the device or the data farm where content is stored; or internal employees of the company that makes the device, who improperly misappropriate customer content; or the police, by means of a subpoena or search warrant (depending on what the police are demanding). So, before technology users activate their always-on devices, they should think long and hard about the privacy implications.”

Allowing tech companies to constantly monitor your every move is a scary thought, but perhaps not as scary as that information getting in the hands of a third party.