Not having it.

Image: Drew Angerer /Getty Images

The iPhone X is finally here, and with it comes a host of new features that Apple promises herald the arrival of “the future.” 

But could that future be rife with privacy violations and potential for abuse? It’s a question that Sen. Al Franken intends to get to the bottom of, and on Wednesday, he fired off a letter to the tech giant to get the investigative ball rolling.  

At issue is Face ID, a replacement for Touch ID that scans a smartphone owner’s face in order to unlock the device or authenticate Apple Pay. Experts have expressed concerns that the technology could be a step backward for device security, as well as a potential move toward a privately owned database of facial biometric data. 

In the letter, addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Franken gets right to the heart of the matter. While acknowledging the security steps the company says it has taken to secure locally stored data, he asks what we’re all thinking: What about the future?

“Apple has stated that all faceprint data will be stored locally on an individual’s device as opposed to being sent to the cloud,” writes Franken. “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?”

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But that’s not all. The Democratic senator from Minnesota addresses the worry that Face ID might discriminate against people of color. 

“[It] has previously been reported that many facial recognition systems have a higher rate of error when tested for accuracy in identifying people of color, which may be explained by variety of factors, including a lack of diversity in the faces that were used to train a system,” he continues. “What steps did Apple take to ensure its system was trained on a diverse set of faces, in terms of race, gender, and age,” he later asks. 

And Franken doesn’t stop there. “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?”

Which, yeah — that’s a pretty good question. 

Face. Off.

Face. Off.

Franken also wants to know if the company can “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.”

And that pesky bit about Face ID actually securing your device against low-tech hacks? “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,” requests the senator. 

He’s asked that Apple respond by Oct. 13. Importantly, pre-sales for the iPhone X are slated to begin Oct. 27. 

Hopefully the company takes Franken’s request seriously. A detailed examination of just what Face ID means for the average consumer’s privacy — not just convenience when unlocking the phone — was overdue the minute the feature was unveiled. Franken’s letter gives Apple the opportunity to remedy that lapse. 

In the meantime, maybe consider sticking with an alphanumeric password

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