New Apple face-recognizing system could prevent snoopers reading your alerts

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Apple iPhone users may soon be able not only to unlock their devices simply by showing their face – they may be able to “control” functions on Macs, iPhones and iPads simply by looking at the screen.

A patent awarded to the computer giant this week, No. 8,600,120 is for “Personal computing device control using face detection and recognition,” as reported by Apple Insider.

Apple reignited interest in biometric security by adding fingerprint recognition to its flagship iPhone 5S this year. But the new patent hints at a system that does more than simply recognize users, though – it’s built to control which alerts are shown on screen, depending on whether its owner is present. According to the patent, devices would “detect a face”, to rule whether it displays an alert of incoming communications.

“For example, during an incoming phone call, an iPhone may be able to “sense” that someone is looking at the device’s screen,” Apple Insider writes. “ If the person is not an authorized user, the iPhone’s screen remains off and only a ringtone or vibration alert is provided. If the person is an authorized user, the usual incoming call UI is displayed.”

GigaOm said that the tech may be used to limit the amount of information an “outsider” can see, saying, “The same can be done with an email notifications – displaying part of the message when you’re looking at the device, but blocking it otherwise.”

GigaOm’s report said that the technology could be used in Macs to adapt audio and video settings dependent on where the user is relative to the machine – citing the fact that Apple recently acquired PrimeSense, the company behind the Kinect 3D motion sensor used by Xbox.

Android handsets have used a “Face Unlock” system, and this year, Google filed a patent for a system which would require specific facial gestures to unlock Android devices – such as sticking one’s tongue out at the machine. This would stop the current Face Unlock utility being fooled by photos of the user, as reported by We Live Security here.

The system would prompt users to perform actions such as a frown, sticking a tongue out, smiling with an open mouth or moving an eyebrow. It would then compare the position of a “facial landmark” in frames taken from a video stream  to come up with a “liveness score”,

Google’s patent suggests that the system could be augmented with other technologies, such as a “3D rangefinder” and “technologies such as lasers to determine distances to remote objects, depth of remote objects.”

Facial biometrics may soon become considerably more secure, after trials of a new system which reads blood vessels under the skin, reported by We Live Security here.

The pattern of blood vessels underneath the skin of our faces is as unique as fingerprints or irises, and can be detected easily with infrared thermal imaging cameras, the researchers from Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India, say.

“Rubber fingerprints can be made to simulate another person’s dabs while contact lenses can be fabricated to spoof someone’s iris so that an impostor could bypass biometric security measures,” the researchers said.

“It would be almost impossible to create a realistic mask for an impostor to wear that simulated the pattern of blood vessels in someone’s face – because no matter how good the mask, the thermal imaging camera would be able to see the impostor’s blood vessels in their skin too and they would be unmasked, figuratively speaking,” the researchers say.

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

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