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Google responds to uproar over Pixel 4 face unlock security, says it’ll soon work just like iPhones

Published Oct 21st, 2019 6:50AM EDT
Pixel 4 Face Unlock

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We’ve known for several months that the Pixel 4 will feature support for 3D face recognition, as Google announced the feature well before this fall’s Made by Google event. At the time, Google also unveiled the Motion Sense radar, saying that the Soli chip will help improve the speed of Face unlock. What Google failed to mention at the time, or during the Pixel 4 event, is that its Face unlock feature isn’t, for the time being, on par with the iPhone’s Face ID. That’s because the Pixel 4 can be unlocked even if your eyes are closed, as some people discovered after the press conference. Face ID on all iOS devices that have TrueDepth cameras, from iPhone X to iPhone 11, work differently, packing a Require Attention security feature that should make it impossible for anyone to point the iPhone to your face while you’re sleeping to get access. Google has acknowledged the issue and says an Eyes open feature is coming soon.

“We’ve been working on an option for users to require their eyes to be open to unlock the phone, which will be delivered in a software update in the coming months,” Google told BGR in a statement. “In the meantime, 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. 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 invalid unlock attempts via other means, like with masks.”

Google explains again that Face unlock is just as secure as Face ID, and that’s not something anyone has disputed.

As for the security feature that you can activate as a replacement, Google mentions the Lockdown option that we’ve told you about before — here’s what you need to know about it.

It’s unclear how soon the Eyes open feature will arrive, but 9to5Google reports that the security feature can already be found on the Pixel 3 by searching for “eyes,” as seen in the following screenshot:

Image source: 9to5Google

The Pixel 3, of course, lacks support for 3D Face unlock, so it’s pointless to even try to enable the security feature for face authentication.

It goes without saying that the Pixel 4 phones that are shipping to customers later this week will not have Eyes open enabled, so you should rely on a PIN or password if you’re worried anyone can abuse the feature to unlock your device. Either that or start using the lockdown feature at the link above.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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