Google Pixel 4 Face Unlock controversy: No "require eyes to be open" option at launch, improvements coming over time

Apple was literally attacked by some publications for doing away with the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone X in favor of a 3D Face ID technology for biometric authentication.

This was a surprise move given that the company’s Touch ID is still considered one of the most secure biometric authentication systems. But over time, Cupertino has proven to be the industry leader we see it to be following a similar move by Google to ditch the fingerprint scanner.

Google-Pixel-4-XL

With the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, Google has completely moved on from the physical rear-mounted fingerprint scanner that has appeared on nearly every other Google phone apart from the early models in the Nexus line.

In its place, Pixel 4 users now have an Apple-like 3D Face unlock mechanism to turn to for secure biometric authentication. But how secure is the Pixel 4 face unlock tech? Well, apparently, not as secure as the iPhone’s Face ID because of one little missing setting.

Prior to the launch of the Pixel 4, it had been leaked that the phone’s Face unlock mechanism would include a toggle/setting named “require eyes to be open” to perform a role similar to Apple’s “attention” requirement.

With this option, Google Pixel 4 users would be able to set the Face unlock system to only authenticate access to the device when one’s eyes are open, just like Face ID on iPhones. However, with the devices out, this setting is nowhere to be found.

The Pixel 4 facial recognition works even if you’re asleep/dead. That seems problematic

It would seem obvious that being awake or rather having your eyes open in order to unlock your phone using Face unlock should be a requirement to guarantee maximum security of your device, but for some reason, the Pixel 4 Face unlock doesn’t have this option.

Instead, anyone can flash the phone across your face even when you are asleep (dead?) and successfully unlock it, which seems a little scary from a privacy standpoint. And yes, this is how Google intends the feature to work at launch.

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.
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Google has confirmed to me: this is how Face Unlock will work when the Pixel 4 goes on sale. There will not be a “require eyes to be open” option at launch.
Source

On the brighter side, the search giant has also promised to keep improving the performance of the Pixel 4 Face unlock feature, although there’s no mention of whether the option to require eyes to be open will be added in a future update.

Google told the BBC in a statement: “We will continue to improve Face Unlock over time.”

To restore some faith in the feature, though, you’ll be glad to know that so far, it’s not possible to fool the Pixel 4 Face unlock system with a photo of the registered face. Not that we expected it anyways.

This comes on the back of Verizon and T-Mobile confirming that both Pixel 4 phones won’t support RCS messaging at launch.

We will be keeping an eye on this story and bring you updates if and when Google brings this privacy option to the Pixel 4. Stay tuned to our Google section for more related coverage.

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Hillary Keverenge

A techy. Besides phones, I also enjoy the farm, music, football, and, of course, food.