STLR Link Roundup – October 6, 2017

iPhone X’s new Face ID raises questions

Face ID is one of the two signature features of the new iPhone X released in September 2017. It is enabled by a tiny Kinect camera and sensor setup to perform the same functions like Touch ID more naturally. The facial recognition system is usually 20 times more secure than Touch ID, except for users under 13 years old or twin siblings. Another security concern is whether someone can unlock your phone with your face. The answer is no if using a picture since 2D images won’t match the 3D mathematical representation scanned and saved on the phone. However, there’s a chance to unlock by pointing the camera at your face. Apple designed a failsafe measure to deal with it by checking your eyes for attention.  To improve on accuracy, Apple also created neural networks to train its model with “more than a billion images of faces from around the world.”

Is Apple collecting this data by watching us all the time? Apple stated that Face ID doesn’t store pictures of you on the iPhone. Instead, it only saves the mathematical representation of the image in the Secure Enclave. However, the mathematical representation of human faces contains a variety of personal information as well, such as physical features, emotional states and estimated age. Despite Apple’s belief in privacy as a fundamental human right, a technology that increases facial scanning to this mass level creates an uncomfortable amount of privacy concerns. Moreover, compared to the Amazon Echo Look potentially watching you in your bedroom, the new iPhone could be viewing wherever you go.

Face ID is also shining a light on a Fifth Amendment debate. In Commonwealth v. Baust, the Virginia Beach Circuit Court ruled that while a defendant could not be forced to hand over a passcode, they could be made to provide their biometric information to unlock their devices. 89 Va. Cir. 267 at 271 (Va. Cir. 2014). In March 2016, a warrant to compel a person to unlock their smartphone with their biometric information was signed off by a judge in the District Court for the Central District of California. Face ID could provide a more accessible route for state agents to potentially invade an individual’s constitutional rights. As a response, Apple has added a feature to the new iOS 11 that lets users quickly disable Touch ID by activating an SOS mode.

Drink-driving in an Autonomous Vehicle

Although the autonomous vehicle is still in its infancy, many countries are already considering changes to the transportation laws to accommodate it.  In the U.S., 87% of Americans want self-driving cars always to have a human driver inside to take control of emergencies, according to a study by Pew Research Center. On the contrary, Congress is moving ahead to allow cars be built without human control and prevents states from restricting this technology.

In Australia, the National Transport Commission (NTC) has been tasked to analyze legislative changes necessary for the expected commercial rollouts of autonomous vehicles in 2020. The critical issue is who would be responsible – the person or the autonomous driving system? NTC’s recent discussion paper alluded to an answer by recommending that intoxicated people should be excepted from drink-driving laws if they get in fully autonomous vehicles. It stated that “the situation is analogous to a person instructing a taxi driver where to go.”  This proposed rule doesn’t apply to cars that are partially autonomous with the possibility of human supervision.

Is Initial Coin Offering (ICO) Legal?

Cryptocurrencies are created and distributed using blockchain technology. Recently, promoters have been offering virtual coins or tokens to raise capital, either in fiat currency or virtual currencies. Financial experts have expressed concerns regarding ICOs because of the wide range of quality. Although there are serious offerings in an attempt to build a new digital currency, some projects are merely pyramid schemes. Despite the hype, China banned all ICOs as “illegal public financing” in September 2017. China’s Central Bank issued a statement criticizing ICOs for “disrupting” financial order.

The ruling of ICOs in the U.S. is not as absolute as the one in China. On July 25, 2017, the SEC ruled the ICO of DAO Tokens to be securities under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. At the same time, the SEC has issued several bulletins and alerts to educate investors and warn them of ICOs as “potential scams.” Subsequently, in September,  it also launched a new initiative “Cyber Unit” to address cyber-based threats, including violations involving blockchain technology and ICOs.

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