Tech & The Web

Apple Denies Facial Recognition Fail at iPhone Event


Apple says its newly-introduced facial recognition feature on its iPhone X did not malfunction during this week’s big event, despite what social media said.

A funny thing happened while Apple was introducing its new iPhone X, the 10th-anniversary edition of its iconic iPhone this week: the phone’s facial recognition feature didn’t seem to recognize Craig Federighi’s face.

Federighi is Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, so if there’s anyone whose face an Apple device’s facial recognition software might be expected to recognize universally, his would certainly be one. (Though the tech is only designed to recognize the user of the individual phone, of course.)

When it couldn’t immediately authenticate Federighi, who was introducing the phone on stage Tuesday, the device asked for a passcode.

Social media, naturally, was quick to pounce, calling the big moment a “fail.” Social media is always ready to pounce on something.

The moment was even posted to Youtube with “fail” in the title:

Apple says it was far from a fail: they claim the device did precisely what it was designed to do: move to Plan B, which is asking for a passcode. reported that Apple explained that several people had handled the device backstage ahead of the event, perhaps trying to determine if they could fool the phone programmed to recognize only Federighi’s face.

They couldn’t.

But what happened next, the company says, is exactly what should have happened. Here’s how Apple explained it in a statement:

After failing a number of times, because they weren’t Craig, the iPhone did what it was designed to do, which was to require his passcode.” In other words, “Face ID worked as it was designed to.”

Well, at least there’s that. Though I’m sure Apple’s naysayers won’t accept that as an acceptable answer…even if it is common sense that the device would be equipped with a passcode backup.

That’s how the fingerprint scanner does it on other models, after all.

Meanwhile, others are questioning the security of data used in the facial recognition software: one Apple has a map of your face, which it says will live on the device, not in the cloud, is it possible the data could go elsewhere?

Sen. Al Franken sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking that question:

Is it currently possible — either remotely or through physical access to the device — for either Apple or a third party to extract and obtain usable faceprint data from the iPhone X?

And along with some other very interesting questions, he also wanted to know if Apple can guarantee that it won’t ever “share faceprint data, along with the tools or other information necessary to extract the data, with any commercial third party.”

He has asked for an answer by October 13th, exactly two weeks before the iPhone X becomes available for pre-order.

How likely do you think it is that faceprint data would eventually spread from individual user devices? Do you trust the technology?

Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.