Apple answers Sen. Al Franken’s privacy concerns over Face ID – CNET

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Sen. Al Franken wants to know if Apple’s Face ID technology for unlocking iPhones with a glance protects consumers’ privacy. 

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Apple is working to satisfy lawmakers’ privacy and security concerns over its Face ID facial recognition technology.

Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, said Monday that he appreciates the company’s efforts to answer his questions about how it’s addressing such concerns.

Franken, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and Law, sent Apple a letter Sept. 13, shortly after the company debuted its iPhone X with Face ID. The feature allows users to unlock the device using facial recognition technology. In his letter, Franken raised concerns about whether the tech giant could protect people’s privacy.

The phone scans your face and uses it as a password, relying on 30,000 unique dots it recognizes. Apple Marketing Chief Phil Schiller has said the company used more than 1 billion pictures to train its facial recognition algorithm.

Apple published a white paper in September answering many of the same questions, such as how much of your face’s image the company actually stores, how long it saves the image and what apps can use Face ID. In its response to Franken, Apple reiterated points it made in the white paper, explicitly pointing out the phone doesn’t store or send biometric information.

Franken said it’s a good start.

“I appreciate Apple’s willingness to engage with my office on these issues,” he said in a statement. “And I’m glad to see the steps that the company has taken to address consumer privacy and security concerns.”

Franken said he plans to follow up with Apple to find out more about how it plans to protect consumers’ data.

This isn’t the first time Franken has questioned Apple’s use of biometrics. In 2013, he wrote a similar letter to CEO Tim Cook after the company announced Touch ID, a fingerprint scanner, for its iPhones.

Apple has fought for user privacy in the past. Last year, the company opposed a judge’s order asking it to assist the FBI in breaking into the iPhone of one of the terrorists involved in the San Bernardino, California, shootings. Cook called the request “an overreach by the US government.” In an open letter, he said complying with the request would result in Apple building “a backdoor to the iPhone” that could be used by hackers. 

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