The facial recognition, or ‘face unlock’ tech in Google’s new Pixel 4 has been one of its most innovative selling points. There’s a problem though.
The phone unlocks even if users have their eyes closed. Google has said its fixing the problem.
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The Pixel 4 doesn’t feature a fingerprint sensor, the security feature becoming increasingly popular in the smartphone market, and facial recognition was meant to be the alternative to the sensor. However, some loopholes have already emerged and users are complaining that their phones are unlocking even if their eyes are closed.
This reduces the security requirements of the phone and, frankly, just seems a bit odd. It also compares poorly to Apple’s equivalent, which requires the user to be “alert”.
Apparently a solution is just around the corner though. Google told The Verge that it has, “Been working on an option for users to require their eyes to be open to unlock the phone, which will be delivered in a software update in the coming months.”
Other aspects of the facial recognition unlock system have impressed. For instance, the fact that the Pixel 4 can’t be tricked by a photo or video of your face. This is because the phone uses infrared sensors to create a map of your face. The map takes account of depth and hence can’t be fooled by a 2D photograph.
The Pixel has still passed the most rigorous tests as a biometric security measure and as a result, you can use it to make payments. Sherry Lin, Pixel Product Manager, told the BBC before launch: “There are actually only two face [authorisation] solutions that meet the bar for being super-secure. So, you know, for payments, that level – it’s ours and Apple’s.”
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Three problems still remain though. Firstly, as a Google support page explained: “Looking at your phone can unlock it even when you don’t intend to.”
Secondly, it adds that, “Your phone can be unlocked by someone who looks a lot like you, like an identical sibling.”
Thirdly: “Your phone can also be unlocked by someone else if it’s held up to your face, even if your eyes are closed. Keep your phone in a safe place, like your front pocket or handbag. To prepare for unsafe situations, learn how to turn on lockdown.”
Turning on lockdown is simple and it’s worth knowing how to use the feature. Simply hold down the power button for a few seconds and select ‘lockdown’.