What the Tech? Using Face ID to snoop

(ABC 6 News) – Can someone unlock your smartphone without your permission? Even if you have a passcode? Yes, they can if you have a convenient iPhone feature turned on.

Let’s say you’re asleep and there’s a snooping child, roommate, or spouse who wants to see who you’ve been texting or calling. They may be able to aim the selfie camera at your face to unlock it. If you’re suspicious someone might want to do that you’ve probably wondered this already. The answer is yes, they can.

It depends on a particular setting on the phone. Apple unveiled unlock with Face ID when it released the iPhone X. It’s convenient since you don’t need to enter a passcode every time you want to unlock your phone. A second setting makes unlocking the phone with Face ID even easier. In Settings, under Face ID & Passcode there are additional settings when you scroll down that allow Face ID to unlock the phone even if you’re not paying attention to it. The setting is “Require Attention”. Quite simply with this setting turned off, the phone will unlock when it detects the biometric information even if your eyes are closed.

If you turn on “Requires Attention”, you’ll need to be looking at the selfie camera with your eyes open. This prevents someone from grabbing your phone and aiming it at your face to unlock it when you’re taking an afternoon nap. There is an exception if you’re wearing an Apple Watch and have “Unlock with Apple Watch” turned on. This was a great feature when everyone was wearing face masks.  If the Apple Watch is connected to the phone and is unlocked, the phone will unlock even without using Face ID. Android devices don’t have the same ability.

Though some Android phones have Face IDs, none that I’ve seen have the ability to unlock without giving it your attention. There is another downside to turning off these features. If you’re in an accident or are incapacitated, rescue workers or someone trying to help you won’t be able to unlock your phone to call someone in your contacts. If you’re suspicious someone may want to snoop on your phone, check those settings.