The Google Pixel 4 just launched and it is yet another Pixel launch with a problem cropping up. India fans were left disappointed because the Pixel 4 is not coming to India. Now it looks like the new Face Unlock feature on Pixel 4 has a problem. According to reports, the Pixel 4’s can be unlocked if someone just points the phone to your face, even if your eyes are closed. Google’s own support page confirms that this is true.
The issue was first highlighted by BBC technology reporter Chris Fox who pointed out that the Pixel 4’s face recognition was working even when one was asleep. He also posted a video showing the phone got unlocked while his eyes were shut. It also looks like there is no mode to make sure Face Unlock does not work when a user’s eyes are shut.
Google’s own support page has this to say on Face Unlock, “Looking at your phone can unlock it even when you don’t intend to. Your phone can be unlocked by someone who looks a lot like you, like an identical sibling. Your phone can also be unlocked by someone else if it’s held up to your face, even if your eyes are closed. Keep your phone in a safe place, like your front pocket or handbag. To prepare for unsafe situations, learn how to turn on lockdown.”
This is in contrast to how Apple’s Face ID works. Apple’s Face ID can actually tell identical twins apart and cannot be be fooled by them. Further, the iPhone Face ID does not open if your eyes are closed or covered, which ensures better privacy protection.
— Chris Fox (@thisisFoxx) October 15, 2019
Face Unlock on Pixel 4 is driven by Soli radar chip as well. Google has claimed the phone will unlock even when the user is not directly looking at the device or as soon as the user picks up the device, because Soli would recognise that the user wants to open the phone.
Of course, the only problem is that this means Face Unlock on Pixel 4 is not as secure, because someone else can easily open the device. In a statement to BBC, Google has said they will improve Face Unlock over time. Privacy experts are not too thrilled that anyone could unlock the Pixel 4, while a user is asleep by just putting the phone in front of their face.
Update: In a statement to The Verge, Google has confirmed that it will push out an update to the Pixel 4’s face unlock system in the coming months. The company said that “if any Pixel 4 users are concerned that someone may take their phone and try to unlock it while their eyes are closed, they can activate a security feature that requires a pin, pattern or password for the next unlock.” Despite the controversy, Google still maintains that the Pixel 4’s face unlock system is secure and meets the strong security requirements as a strong biometric.