Apple's iPhone X facial recognition feature raises privacy concerns

Apple pulled back the curtain this week on its latest gadget, the iPhone X, packed full of new tech — and now, new questions. The phone uses a forward-facing camera system and depth sensors to map the contours of your face, allowing you to unlock your phone just by looking at it.  

Apple is touting its new phone's facial recognition technology as a win for the company and its customers, reports CBS News' Bianna Golodryga. The company says the technology gives consumers a more secure phone. But could an image of your own face actually put you at greater risk?

Facial recognition technology isn't a new concept, but with an estimated 700 million iPhones reportedly in use around the globe, there are new privacy concerns about its growing use. 

"There's always a chance that someone could physically force you to unlock your device by grabbing your hand or holding the phone up to your face. You also have to worry about where this information is being shared," said CNET senior editor Dan Ackerman.

Now, Congress is asking where that information could go. In a letter to CEO Tim Cook, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, outlined a number of concerns, including Apple potentially selling the data to third parties or giving it up to law enforcement.

Ackerman says Apple has assured users their data is safe.
 
"It stores it locally on the phone, in a secure area of the phone hardware itself. It doesn't go up to a cloud somewhere. It's just on that device only," Ackerman said.

Bojan Simic is the co-founder of HYPR Biometric Security, a software firm that uses facial recognition similar to Apple's.   

"The biometric template itself, they are not able to take and sell to third parties because they are not able to extract it from that secure enclave on the device," Simic said.

For those concerned about what happens if law enforcement uses your biometric data to unlock your phone, according to a Supreme Court ruling, they cannot go through it without a search warrant.

If you're still nervous, you always have the option of switching off the facial recognition and simply punching in a security code.

"CBS This Morning" reached out to Apple for comment on this story but has yet to hear back.