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Source says Apple to prevent app developers from harvesting biometric data

Apple has a plan to prevent app developers from violating user privacy regarding the use of its Face ID facial recognition feature for the new iPhone X, available November 3, according to a Fortune.com report citing a source close to the matter.

The tech giant has yet to disclose any details about these so-called privacy guidelines, however, Apple has had a consistent reputation for championing privacy which means it is likely to use Face ID responsibly.

However, this does not guarantee that third-party companies that integrate Face ID into their apps will also adhere to these same guidelines.

These companies could potentially build their own databases of face images and use the database to identify shoppers online and in person for surveillance and marketing purposes.

Fortunately, all biometric data captured using a special camera on the iPhone X as part of Face ID is completely stored on the phone and never sent back to Apple.

As a result, consumers’ facial recognition data will not be transferred to Apple’s iCloud storage service as the company does with photos and other content.

Addressing concerns about third parties’ use of Face ID, Apple said that “users’ privacy has been a priority since the very beginning”. The company added that it would unveil more details about Face ID closer to the product’s release.

“The most unknown part of Face ID is the third-party aspect. It could be troubling if third-party app developers have carte blanche to access the hardware,” said Chris Dore, an attorney with Edelson PC, a law firm that has won several large cases involving firms that used apps to obtain consumer data without their consent. “Hopefully Apple is aware of this and will have a way of sandboxing third party’s use of Face ID.”

A source familiar with Face ID, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, confirmed that Apple will “sandbox” or reduce the app’s access to the facial recognition capability in a way that prevents app developers from collecting biometric data.

If Apple does take this approach to safeguard user privacy, it would remain consistent with its practices involving Touch ID, which allows users to authorize purchases with a finger or thumbprint.

Apple’s privacy features integrated into Face ID are likely to alleviate any misuse of the face technology.

However, Dore is concerned that the iPhone X will increase the popularity of facial recognition, and drive certain companies to exploit the technology.

Just last week, Juniper Research released the results of a new survey that found over 40 percent of iOS users in the U.S. are unlikely to use facial recognition as a payment security technology.

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