November 11, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
Ice Cream Sandwich includes a feature that allows users to unlock the phone simply by looking at their device. A front-facing camera takes a look at the person holding the phone, compares that to the registered user, and unlocks only if the two faces match. Despite Android Developer Advocate Tim Bray saying a photo would not be good enough to bypass facial recognition, someone at a Galaxy Nexus demo event has video that appears to prove otherwise.
SoyaCincau.com attended a regional launch of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and put the Face Unlock feature to the test. After setting up the phone to recognize his face and then putting up a photo stored on a Samsung Galaxy Note, the Galaxy Nexus unlocked. Google had previously said that a picture would not fool Face Unlock, but as you can see from the video below, that’s not exactly true.
There are two possible explanations for this:
- Perhaps Google tested with a printed photo rather than one on a screen and didn’t anticipate that would happen (possible but unlikely).
- Perhaps the test device at the event was running pre-release software that didn’t have the full complexity of Face Unlock built into it (more likely).
The one thing I’ve taken away from my experience attending tech conferences is that the devices on hand are never fully-baked. They have shortcomings yet to be addressed, features yet to be properly implemented, and shouldn’t be judged fully until we see a retail version of the product. My guess is that’s what’s happening here.
In the event that Face Unlock is that easy to fool, I’d be disappointed. I planned on using this feature simply for the novelty/convenience and not for security as others have suggested. I don’t even use a pin/pattern on my screen now because I want quick access to the phone. However, it would be a letdown to see a promising feature so easily circumvented.