From BGR: The iPhone X’s Face ID feature has Senator Al Franken a little bit worried

Al Franken sure likes to write letters. Barely a day removed from Apple’s iPhone X event, the Minnesota Senator penned a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking a myriad of questions about the security protocols built into Apple’s brand new Face ID technology and any resulting privacy implications. Franken also asked how Apple tested the technology during development and if we can expect the feature to perform reliably with different groups of people across race, age and gender.

While some of the questions posed by Franken are arguably redundant insofar that we’ve already been down this road with Touch ID, there are a few intriguing questions Franken managed to sneak in. It’s worth noting that the tone of Franken’s letter is not combative as much as it is inquisitive. Laid out across three pages, Franken asked Cook to answer the following 10 questions.

Franken’s questions read:

1. Apple has stated that all faceprint data will be stored locally on an individual’s device as opposed to being sent to the cloud.
a. Is it currently possible – either remotely or through physical access to the device – for either Apple or a third party to extract and obtain usable faceprint data from the iPhone X?

b. Is there any foreseeable reason why Apple would decide to begin storing such data remotely?

2. Apple has stated that it used more than one billion images in developing the Face ID algorithm. Where did these one billion face images come from?

3. What steps did Apple take to ensure its system was trained on a diverse set of faces, in terms of race, gender, and age? How is Apple protecting against racial, gender, or age bias in Face ID?

4. In the unveiling of the iPhone X, Apple made numerous assurances about the accuracy and sophistication of Face ID. Please describe again all the steps that Apple has taken to ensure that Face ID can distinguish an individual’s face from a photograph or mask, for example

5. Apple has stated that is has no plans to allow any third party applications access to the Face ID system or its faceprint data. Can Apple assure its users that it will never share faceprint data, along with the tools or other information necessary to extract the data, with any commercial third party?

6. Can Apple confirm that it currently has no plans to use faceprint data for any purpose other than the operation of Face ID?

7. Should Apple eventually determine that there would be reason to either begin storing faceprint data remotely or use the data for a purpose other than the operation of Face ID, what steps will it take to ensure users are meaningfully informed and in control of their data?

8.  In order for Face ID to function and unlock the device, is the facial recognition system “always on/5 meaning does Face ID perpetually search for a face to recognize?

If so:

a. Will Apple retain, even if only locally, the raw photos of faces that are used to unlock (or attempt to unlock) the device?

b. Will Apple retain, even if only locally, the faceprints of individuals other than the owner of the device?

9. What safeguards has Apple implemented to prevent the unlocking of the iPhone X when an individual other than the owner of the device holds it up to the owner’s face?

10. How will Apple respond to law enforcement requests to access Apple’s faceprint data or the Face ID system itself?

Apple is under no legal obligation to respond to Franken’s inquiry, but it stands to reason that Apple will respond by the October 13th deadline Franken set.

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From BGR: This brand new case might be the cheapest way to double your iPhone’s battery life

If you have an iPhone 6 or an iPhone 6s, you know that Apple’s iPhones definitely stand the test of time. They’re still fast, still sleek, and they can still run Apple’s latest iOS software. Battery life is another matter entirely, however, and there’s no way you’re seeing battery longevity that’s anything like it was when you first got your phone. You could fix that by purchasing Apple’s $100 Smart Battery Case, or you could double your handset’s battery life for $25 with the brand new Trianium Atomic S.

Here are the highlights from the product page:

  • The powerful 3100mAh Li-polymer rechargeable battery can effectively provide 100%+ extra battery life to your iPhone 6/6S, which is equivalent to add 14 + hours talk time or 10+ hours web browsing time. (Upgraded: reinforced bumper/usb port)
  • 360° comprehensive bumper design and hard-shell backplate, the Trianium Atomic S Portable Charger protects your iPhone from scratches and other daily wear and tear, yet small and convenient enough to fit easily in your hand or in your pocket.
  • Featuring sync-through technology that you can sync your iPhone to a computer without having to take the battery case off. Simultaneously charge your iPhone and battery case together with the included microUSB cable. The case deploys microUSB input to lightning 8pin output to save you $100+ on keeping multiple apple cables.
  • The resilient design of the Trianium Atomic S iPhone Charger features LED battery level indicator that lets you know exactly how much power you have; and a softer side that safely holds your iPhone while providing easy access to all buttons and ports.
  • Trianium iPhone 6S/6 Battery Case works with iOS10 and all future updates; “LIFETIME” By Trianium ensure our products work the way you need them to.

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From BGR: There’s another star headed for our Solar System, but it won’t arrive for a while

Today, a colossal asteroid is cruising past our planet at a pretty safe distance, but if humanity is still around in some 1.3 million years, things are going to be getting pretty dicey here on planet Earth. New research spearheaded by the European Space Agency suggests that there’s a star headed towards our Solar System, and when it gets here it’s going to make life very difficult for anyone still hanging out on Earth.

The star, called Gliese 710, is headed for a close encounter with our Solar System, and we know that thanks to the ESA’s work on what it calls the Gaia Mission. The initiative sought to create an extremely accurate 3D map of the Milky Way, and in doing so, plot the trajectories of as many nearby stars as possible.

The effort has successfully plotted the paths of hundreds of thousands of stars, and in studying the ones that will come closest to our neck of the woods over the next five million years, ESA’s Coryn Bailer-Jones discovered that Gliese 710 is going to cause some serious issues down the road.

The star won’t come into direct contact with our Sun, but it will cruise within 1.4 trillion miles of it. That’s close enough to disrupt the mass of icy debris, called the Oort Cloud, which surrounds our system. When it does that, it will likely send untold numbers of comets towards the center of the Solar System, making life very dangerous for anyone living on one of the inner planets, like Earth.

It’s worth noting that, given the current situation here on Earth with climate change, overpopulation, and the nuclear threat, there’s a good chance humanity won’t make it out of this century in one piece, so we probably shouldn’t be worried about what’s going to happen 1.3 million years in the future.

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