Google has been all about privacy over the past few weeks, but the Google Pixel 4 seems to have one glaring privacy flaw — its supposedly ultra-secure face unlock tech on the Pixel 4 works when your eyes are closed, according to a report from BBC News.
Of course, that could come in handy at times, but there are some serious issues associated with it. That means someone could unlock your phone using your face when you’re sleeping, or worse, unconscious, giving them full access to your device without you even knowing about it.
The actual tech is similar to Apple’s Face ID on the iPhone X and later, and Google has said that it’s secure enough to work for device authentication across the Android operating system. In fact, the company was so confident in the tech that it even removed the fingerprint sensor from the Pixel altogether — so if you want biometric authentication on the Pixel 4, you’re going to have to use the new face unlock feature.
The flaw in the system could be an issue for any number of reasons. Not only could it make it easier for snooping partners or friends to gain access to your device without your permission, but it could also make it easier for authorities to unlock a seized phone without permission.
The fact that the system works when your eyes are closed separates it from Apple’s Face ID, which requires you to have your eyes open and looking at the device. Apple actually allows users to disable that setting, but stresses that including it helps make Face ID more secure than it otherwise would be.
Google hasn’t included such a setting yet — but even if it does, hopefully it will switch it on by default. The fact is that most people don’t want to have to trawl through settings to make their device more secure. Users can still turn off facial recognition altogether, and instead require the use of a PIN code.
Of course, it’s important to note that being able to work when you’re asleep or unconscious isn’t all that different from fingerprint sensors. A malicious actor could theoretically use your fingerprint on your device when you’re unconscious. Still, hopefully biometric authentication will get more secure over time, and not stay at the level it is at now.