Apple unveiled the iPhone X last month. The flagship smartphone comes with a new security feature called Face ID. It uses facial recognition technology to control access to the device. To calm privacy fears, Apple said during the announcement that all of the face data is stored securely on the device itself. However, some privacy experts are concerned about Apple sharing some facial data with app developers.
Reuters reports today that Apple allows developers to take some facial data off of the device so long as they agree to seek the customer’s permission and not sell the data to third parties. The app developers will then be able to use that data to build new features for the iPhone X.
The data that can be taken off of the phone with user permission includes a visual representation of the user’s face and more than 50 facial expressions. The data can be removed from the phone and stored on the developer’s own servers. It can help monitor how often users smile, blink or even raise an eyebrow.
As detailed in documentation about the face unlock system that Apple released to security researchers, the data that will be made available to developers cannot be used to unlock a phone. That requires a mathematical representation of the user’s face and not merely a visual map.
Privacy experts are concerned that unscrupulous marketers might use this data to track users’ facial expressions in response to content or advertisements even though this is something that’s against Apple’s contractual rules.
Apple has made it part of the agreement that developers can’t use the face data for advertising or marketing. They also can’t sell the data to data brokers or analytics firms. Apple has put several measures in place to ensure that the data is not misused. How effective they prove to be is something that only time will tell.