The Chairman of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is asking Apple to come up with a better form of iPhone authentication. The agency is particularly worried about Face ID, insofar as the poor performance of the facial recognition platform is making it more difficult for transit riders to comply with safety guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In that regard, MTA Chairman Patrick Foye explained that many riders are taking their masks off to unlock their iPhones while taking public transit. That obviously creates a greater risk for those around them since germs spread more freely when people are not wearing masks. It also creates more work for MTA employees, who need to be more rigorous about sanitization.
According to Foye, the problems have persisted despite a recent iOS 13.5 update, which arrived in May. The update allows users to swipe their phone to enter a passcode manually, which is a user experience improvement on the old system that only presented users with the option after an unsuccessful Face ID scan. However, many users may not be aware of the new feature, which is why Foye indicated that the MTA is willing to work with Apple to get the word out with a campaign.
“We understand Apple is working to address the issue and know that Apple has a range of technologies at its disposal as a global leader among tech companies,” wrote Foye in a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook. “We urge Apple to accelerate the deployment of new technologies and solutions that further protect customers in the era of COVID-19.”
“There’s nothing more important to us than the health and safety of our customers,” Apple said in its own statement to the Associated Press. “We are fully committed to continuing to work with the MTA to support their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
NIST recently released a report that confirmed that many algorithms struggle when asked to recognize people wearing masks. However, facial recognition providers have been scrambling to improve the performance of their algorithms since the start of the pandemic, and many have now released updates to improve their accuracy for people wearing masks.
August 11, 2020 – by Eric Weiss