22 October 2019
Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL smartphones come with a sophisticated face unlock technology which is deemed to be secure enough that Google did not even bother about offering a fingerprint scanner. Sherry Lin, Pixel's Product Manager, has even compared it to Apple's Face ID face unlocking system. All of this sounds good but as per a new finding, Pixel 4's facial unlock is so good at recognizing you that it possesses potential security and privacy risk.
As spotted by Chris Fox, Technology Reporter for BBC News, Pixel 4 face unlock works even with closed eyes. It means even if you are asleep or dead, anyone can just bring your Pixel 4 close to your face and it will get unlocked. And we do not really have to explain the kind of risk it brings to your privacy as anyone can get unauthorized access to your smartphone in an instant.
Google is very well aware of this situation as the official support page clearly mentions: "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."
If someone will have to go with this advice, they will need to keep their Pixel 4 in their "front pocket or handbag" even when they are sleeping. But jokes aside, Google has not offered any information about what it plans to do about this particular capability of the face unlock. If we compare it with Apple's Face ID, it unlocks iPhone only after making sure that the user is looking at the phone and is "alert" while doing so. It basically checks for eyes to blink to ensure the "alert" state. This extra check can also be disabled from settings but Apple recommends to keep it enabled. We can expect Google to release a new and similar setting that will allow users to enable the alert checking step.
In the meantime, your best option is to go for Lockdown functionality. It is a feature that disables all biometric authentications on the phone and only PIN/password can be used to unlock it. It can be accessed via phone settings but can also be added as a shortcut to power options on Android 10. To do so, you will need to visit Settings -> Display -> Advanced -> Lock screen display and enable the Show Lockdown option toggle.
- The Google Pixel 4 is available at Amazon for $ 549.
- The Google Pixel 4 XL isn't still available online. To be notified when it becomse available click here.