The facial recognition on Google's new Pixel 4 can be fooled by a twin or unlocked by someone else while you're asleep

Business Insider Technology 1 month ago

For the Pixel 4's facial recognition, Google focused on its radar technology that makes it easier and faster to unlock the phone during its event on Tuesday.

But as far as security goes, the Pixel 4 admits that it isn't perfect. 

Google placed a disclaimer titled "Keep in mind" right in the Pixel 4's facial recognition settings that says the phone's facial recognition can be fooled by "someone who looks a lot like you," like an identical twin. 

But what's more concerning is the disclaimer that your Pixel 4 can be unlocked by "someone else if it's held up to your face, even if your eyes are closed." Essentially, someone could unlock your phone while you're asleep without you knowing, which is significantly less secure than a passcode or PIN. 

Apple's face unlock system, Face ID, is similar in that it could also be fooled by a lookalike. In its Face ID support page, the company suggests you use your passcode to unlock an iPhone if you don't want to risk a twin or sibling that looks like you unlocking your phone. 

But Face ID has a feature called "Attention Aware" that prevent iPhones from being unlocked when your eyes are closed. It's more secure, but it makes the iPhone harder to unlock using Face ID. IPhone users can disable "Attention Aware" to make Face ID unlocking faster and easier, but also less secure. The point is that "Attention Aware" is turned on by default, while the Pixel 4 doesn't even currently have the option. 

Business Insider asked Google whether the Pixel 4 will eventually get a feature that prevents unlocking the phone when your eyes are closed. A Google spokesperson said "like most of our products, this feature is designed to get better over time with future software updates."

The Google spokesperson also told Business Insider that "Pixel 4 face unlock meets the security requirements as a strong biometric, and can be used for payments and app authentication, including banking apps. It is resilient against unlock attempts via other means, like with masks."

Still, if you're really worried about security on the Pixel 4, or any phone for that matter, nothing seems to beat the good old-fashioned PIN or passcode.


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