Ice Cream Sandwich or Android 4.0′s facial recognition is a big attraction and people may fall for it in a big way. Using facial recognition to log in to a computer is an intriguing one. Theoretically the approach would be a frictionless and very natural one as it is the most convenient form of system security – the computer simply sees it’s you and grants access.
But Android 4.0′s facial recognition did not prove to be so natural, or even convenient. The technology is not a new one and has been around since the early 1990s – surprisingly. It was first demonstrated by IBM in the late 1990s at Comdex, but it has only become mainstream in the last few years. Traditional PCs particularly notebooks with webcams built into their screens, now commonly boasts facial recognition unlock feature, but they are not flawless. The truth is that there is not a single gadget that has a record of even 90% accuracy in face recognition.
Sad, since the latest version of Google’s Android software – version 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich – brings facial recognition to smartphones. Samsung Galaxy Nexus I has it and thankfully it offers better recognition than PCs and is the best implementations of the technology so far, but it is still not flawless enough to inspire a user to use it exclusively.
It is, however, also one of the most insecure.
The facial recognition system in Android first needs to be trained what the user looks like. The software uses the front-facing camera to take a photo. When facial recognition unlocking is turned on, the front camera turns on and tries to match what sees with the stored image. If there’s a match, you’re logged into the phone. If it could not match the new face with the stored image, one can unlock it using a PIN or Android’s pattern-tracing screen.
The software encourages the user to take multiple pictures. So the user should take pictures in glasses, in different lightings and from different angles. The more the number of images of the user, the better will be the chances of his face being recognized by its device.
The bad thing is that often sometimes when the phone does not recognize the face of the owner, it would recognize his picture. Lo! Strange but true and it was found that an owner clicked a picture on iPhone, and then pulled that likeness up on the screen. He aimed the iPhone image at the Galaxy Nexus’ camera, and voila! The Android phone unlocked and he was granted access. This worked every single time. Does it go on to prove that the owner must carry a picture of himself around to unlock his phone using the face recognition technology? And when the phone might be stolen, the thief might even get a hand at the picture in the wallet and have a fun time unlocking the phone with the new technology. Sad!
Google has already realized that it is sad and so it is quite upfront about the fact that this is not a particularly secure way to lock your phone. When the setup process is initiated, a screen warns you that other ways of locking the device are more secure. So much for the intriguing technology!