Is it safe to use Face ID on your smartphone?

The implementation of facial recognition on our smartphones has revolutionised authentication. As of 2020, Apple’s ‘Face ID’ is available on the iPhone X and later iPhone models, as well as the iPad Pro models with the A12X Bionic chip.

Face ID can be used to not only unlock your phone, but it also allows you to authorise purchases. 

The Android equivalent ‘Trusted Face’ was removed from devices from all the Android devices running Android 10 or below in 2019, due to the fact it was not secure enough.

If you have an Apple device that allows you to set up Face ID, you may be wondering whether you should take advantage of the technology or stick with a password, especially given the removal of ‘Trusted Face’. Read on to discover if this technology is something worth implementing.

How Face ID works

Apple’s Face ID works thanks to its TrueDepth camera system that maps the shape of a user’s face. This includes features such as the distance your eyes are apart, the height of your ears, and the size of your mouth. In total the system captures over 30,000 invisible dots to create an in depth map of your face. This is then turned into mathematical representation and each time you want to unlock your phone, your face points are compared to the stored data. If it’s a match, the phone unlocks. 


One question many people have with regards to the Face ID system is if the system can be tricked. Indeed, Trusted Face was removed as a smart unlock option due to the fact it could be fooled pretty easily with a printed picture and was therefore a threat to user privacy.

Face ID, however, cannot be fooled by a photo of your face. This is because the system has a liveness detection feature, essentially making sure the person trying to unlock the phone is alive. To grant access to the phone the person must also have their eyes open, otherwise the system could be fooled when the user is sleeping.

For added security, your facial data never leaves the phone and is not transferred, so no one can access it even if they somehow managed to unlock your phone. This makes it much more secure than a traditional passcode or pattern to unlock your phone. As the different points on your face are completely unique to you, your Face ID cannot be guessed, even if your phone is stolen.

Apple has even said “The probability that a random person in the population could look at your iPhone or iPad Pro and unlock it using Face ID is approximately 1 in 1,000,000 with a single enrolled appearance.”  Touch ID, by comparison, was 1 in 50,000, so it’s a significant improvement in security.

As the technology evolves it is only likely to get more secure, as any flaws will be patched and new innovations around facial recognition will be implemented.

Ease of use

While Face ID may be more secure than just a passcode alone, the success rate of opening your device or apps may be off putting for some users. This is particularly the case now that the coronavirus pandemic means we are wearing masks much more often. Face ID does not currently work when the smartphone user is wearing their mask, which ultimately means to make payments or open your phone you end up putting your passcode in anyway.

While this is the case, using Face ID is not the most seamless process. If you’d prefer to turn the feature off you can do so by following these steps.


Go to Settings  > Face ID & Passcode.

Do one of the following:

Turn off Face ID for specific items only: Turn off one or more options: iPhone Unlock, Apple Pay, iTunes & App Store, or Safari AutoFill.

Turn off Face ID: Tap Reset Face ID.

And to turn off Trusted Face if you own an Android that supports it:

Navigate to your device’s Settings menu.

Tap Security (or Security & Location in some versions of Android)

Tap Smart Lock

Tap Trusted face.

Tap Remove Trusted Face

If you have any questions about Face ID, or any other technology queries, leave a comment below or tweet @techtroublesho1.

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