Acknowledge concerns surrounding new iPhone technology
According to an , the iPhone X is slated for release on Nov. 3, 2017 at a starting price of $999, making it Apple Inc.’s most expensive smartphone to date. Despite its high price point, many technology enthusiasts are already lining up to get their hands on the phone, and looking at it, there is little wonder why: The phone barely there bevels and a gorgeous OLED screen, the first to be used on an Apple product, resulting in a sleek and modern design. It showcases innovative new technology with its 3D facial identification feature (FaceID), promising ease of use and fun little gimmicks like animated emojis. On top of all that, there is a certain thrill that comes with being an early adopter of technology. It makes the awe and anticipation of a new release just that much sweeter, and therein lies the issue.
With every new product comes a new slew of legal and political implications. Every year, society struggles to adapt to innovation, one of the biggest in recent memory being Apple Inc.’s with the FBI in regards to encrypted smartphone data of the San Bernardino shooter just last year. Technology, undoubtedly, has the power to change the society we live in, and yet the average consumer is not nearly contemplative enough of the industry’s overall direction. The impending release of the iPhone X only serves to highlight this truth.
Though its beautiful design has been well-received, the iPhone X’s most boasted feature is undoubtedly its FaceID. According to the , a combination of features known as the TrueDepth camera system will create a “detailed depth map of your face” to identify you, allowing you to unlock your phone. This system completely replaces the fingerprint scanning TouchID system of the previous models.
Over the past month, Apple Inc. has hurried to address concerns about the FaceID technology, primarily regarding convenience of use and the accuracy of readings, . The answers seem to be, respectively, “to be seen” and “very.” In an attempt to put surveillance paranoia to rest before it can start, the company was also quick to explain that Apple Inc. will not have access to the biometric data, which will be stored solely on the phone itself,
However, when it comes to the biggest concern with FaceID, former NSA contractor put it best in : “Good: Design ... already has a panic disable. Bad: Normalizes facial scanning, a tech certain to be abused.” Snowden is best known for his leaks of classified NSA documents in 2013, which exposed several secret government surveillance tools and initiatives.
While Apple Inc. assures potential consumers that they cannot and will not misuse the facial identification data collected, those same consumers miss the ominous implication that this technology now exists. To adapt to a human’s natural changes over time, FaceID plans to make use of machine learning to ensure accuracy over time. “Put on glasses. Wear a hat. Grow a beard,” the official Apple Inc. website reads. “Your friends might not recognize you. But iPhone X will.”
The fact of the matter is, FaceID is a technology that did not need to exist. Although Apple Inc. may insist upon FaceID’s stronger security and better convenience, even in fiction, no realistic dystopia begins with bad intentions. Invention is a slippery slope, and creating technology just because we can, without consideration to long-term implications, can be dangerous. However, the burden of conscience does not lie solely on the shoulders of industry powerhouses like Apple Inc.
Technology consumers, especially us early adopters, are easily dazzled by the latest features, and even once the stars clear from our eyes, we rarely see beyond the shiny new product itself. However, though companies may make technology, the measure of what society is ready to accept is determined solely by consumers.
In 2013, consumers, without realizing, hugely influenced the direction of the video game industry by participating in what would end up one of the most one-sided console wars of all time: the PlayStation 4 against the Xbox One. Microsoft’s video game division is still struggling to recover from the Xbox One’s loss, . The reason for its failure can be attributed to misallocated innovation, specifically regarding its motion-sensing Kinect.
Microsoft called it “rocket science level” technology, according to . This Kinect was supposedly able to monitor heartbeats through its camera and identify individual people through its audio processor. Even when your console was off, all you had to say was “Xbox On” to turn the gaming system on. It didn’t take long for people to realize that this meant the device would always be listening. This realization did not go over well, and it was a major contributing factor to the Xbox One’s defeat by the PS4, despite Microsoft’s insistence that it placed great importance on “making privacy a top priority,” according to the same article in the Verge. In doing so, consumers essentially turned game consoles off the path of voice command and motion control. Microsoft eventually removed the Kinect from its console entirely, according to a .
This then begs the question: Following the poor reception of Microsoft’s innovative technology, why is Apple Inc.’s new FaceID so well received?
It may be that the idea of 24/7 auditory surveillance represents a more immediate limitation of freedom than the possibility of a detailed facial database. Perhaps we, as a society, have already been desensitized to the idea through the ease of Facebook photo tagging. Additionally, in an unfortunate overlap with Snowden’s NSA leaks, the concept of global surveillance was fresh in public awareness during the promotion of the Xbox One, keeping consumers wary and protective of their privacy. Perhaps it is simply that Apple Inc. seems more trustworthy to some than Microsoft.
However, Apple Inc. does not exist independently of the industry. Apple Inc. has long been considered a trendsetter, and there are already rumors of Android developers seeking to emulate FaceID technology. According to a , facial recognition software is already used in various places, including casinos and airports, which may be eager to update its capabilities. that facial recognition in a society of existing video surveillance may grow beyond its original purpose and warns that authorities will “find them to be an irresistible expansion of their power.” Meanwhile, technology consumers’ ready acceptance of the iPhone X acts as a gateway for facial recognition technology in other aspects of society.
The iPhone X’s new FaceID may be ushering in a new technological era with wider implications than just smartphone technology, and we, as consumers, are too slow to recognize this. Ultimately, there must be a greater overall awareness of how individual products direct the course of an industry within a culture of rapid technological — and resultant societal — change. We cannot just allow ourselves to be swept up by the newest features, fanciest figures and the slickest marketing campaign. Perhaps it is time to take a step back from the cutting edge before it cuts too deep, and maybe that distance will grant a new perspective.