Google was so proud of the facial recognition tech that they removed the fingerprint sensor from their latest Pixel 4 smartphones. It was one of the features that Google bragged about at their made by Google hardware event. Pixel 4 has the fastest Face Unlock feature. Google uses radar sensors to start the Face Unlock process to make it super-fast. However, it can still be unlocked even if the person is sleeping or dead.

The Face Unlock feature of Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL can also be used with the person’s eyes closed, which makes it a significant privacy concern. Face ID in iPhones requires the person to look directly into the phone with eyes open. It doesn’t unlock the phone unless it detects eyes open. Whereas, Google’s Support Page says:

“Important: Your phone can also be unlocked by someone else if it’s held up to your face, even if your eyes are closed. Keep your phone in a safe place, like your front pocket or handbag.”

Apple, on the other hand, has clearly stated on their support page:

“For additional security, Face ID is attention aware. It unlocks iPhone only when your eyes are open and looking at the screen.”

This is a nightmare for those who care a lot about their privacy, and they should because that would allow anyone to unlock their phone while they’re asleep and access data, presumably, it also works with the dead.

The matter is more complicated than just snooping friends or your spouse. Pixel 4’s facial recognition flaw means that anyone, including authorities, can unlock your phone without your permission; they just have to point it to your face. And even though you close your eyes, they’ll get access.

To make sure it doesn’t happen, you can enable the “Lockdown” feature in Android, till Google releases the update to add this option. The Lockdown function of the Pixel phones disable the biometric verification and requires the users to enter a PIN in order to unlock the phone.

Turn on Lockdown

Lockdown will only work until you unlock your phone. If you want to keep using Lockdown, turn it on each time you want to use it.

  1. Hold the power button for a couple of seconds.
  2. Tap Lockdown.

According to The Verge, a Google Spokesperson said,

“We don’t have anything specific to announce regarding future features or timing, but like most of our products, this feature is designed to get better over time with future software updates.”

In response to the major flaw identified, Google said that they’re working on the option to unlock the phone that will require their eyes to be open, and it will be delivered in a software update in the coming months.

“We’ve been working on an option for users to require their eyes to be open to unlock the phone, which will be delivered in a software update in the coming months. In the meantime, if any Pixel 4 users are concerned that someone may take their phone and try to unlock it while their eyes are closed, they can activate a security feature that requires a pin, pattern, or password for the next unlock.”

The security feature is the Lockdown feature, which has been discussed earlier, and it can be activated by the users by following the aforementioned steps. There is, however, no exact date or month to specify when the eye detection feature will roll out.

Avatar for Aima Irfan

Graduated from FAST-NUCES and Content Writer at Tech Engage

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1 Comment

  1. No one has to touch you to hold your phone up to your face while you’re sleeping. They’d have to physically grab your hand/finger to use the fingerprint scanner.

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