Apple talks a great talk about privacy and demonstrably walks its talk too. Only almost not good enough though. It talks a about how what happens in your iPhone stays on your iPhone. Remember that privacy billboard ad Apple used to certain tech giants during CES 2019? Or Tim Cook's frequent preaching about the value of consumer's privacy?
Yeah, yeah, I remember that too. And to be honest, I have always secretly nodded at these efforts with approval. As an individual who's now significantly buried in Apple's ecosystem, I would be either lying or delusional not to say that I'm a fan.
I appreciate the fact that Apples' touch ID and Face ID work incredibly well. I appreciate that those can lock out most sniffy folks who die to see what's on your phone.
Except that sometimes they both fail. Either due to default programming or due to subpar conditions required for these technologies to work.
In terms of basic programming, you're required to enter your passcode when your phone loads following a restart. Only after that can you begin to use touch ID or face ID to perform subsequent unlocks.
The other range of scenarios happens when your fingers are moist, or covered in dirt in the case of touch ID. In the case of face ID, I have observed that if most of my face is covered face ID fails to authenticate. Or if I'm only barely awake when waking up, or I'm sleeping on a pillow on my side, and one half of my face is squashed in my pillow.
In such scenarios, my phone will give me the option of entering my passcode. An option that is almost instantly taken. I doubt that most of us don't respond in the same way.
Obviously, you and I cannot fault apple for this happening. That said, it would great if the frequency by which we find ourselves in these situations significantly went down. I'm only positive that things will only tend in that direction.
It's great to have a gatekeeper that works most of the time, then not having a gatekeeper at all. Which is what having touch ID or face ID typically represents for me.
When will touch ID and Face ID be an option on iMessages and photos app?
This brings me to my problem with apple. Why are do default iOS apps lack the option to authenticate with either of these technologies?
Take iMessage, for example, the messaging app that keeps a lot of people on the iPhone. People will have all sorts of conversations via the app. Some utterly sensitive and others mundane. In fact, some payment apps such as MPESA, TransferWise, banks and other financial institutions/apps will send you messages of your financial transactions. Messages which will be stored in your iMessage applications.
Obviously it would be very disturbing to most people for these conversations or records to fall to the attention people they wouldn't want to disclose to. Such people don't necessarily have to be malicious hackers. Most of the time, we want to keep certain information/conversations from those close to us. For example, a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend who might start reading to much into certain conversations. Or friends we do not want to find out about certain parts of our lives.
And yeah, yeah there's that issue about being in friendships or relationships with people who have little respect for the concept of boundaries. Except those boundaries are sometimes hard to enforce or respect if they're weakly drawn.
Similarly, no matter how much we want to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that we're civilized people who respect other people's boundaries, we're often not. There's a strong primitive need in spite of ourselves to snoop around other people's stuff. Especially if their actions have a direct or perceived impact on our own happiness or livelihood (in case of a spouse).
How did facebook best apple?
Remember the CES 2019 ad, I referenced above? I'm pretty sure, Facebook was one of the targets of the ad. After all, Facebook has had a notorious record for playing games with its users' privacy? Well, I never thought that I would mind myself in lauding facebook's efforts on account of a privacy-related issue.
Yet, I must say that I'm impressed with what they have done with WhatsApp on iOS. At the time of this writing, the WhatsApp iOS app is one of the few iOS apps that uses touch ID or face ID to keep snoopy eyes out. If you're an iPhone user who uses WhatsApp, if you go open the settings up, scroll down to where WhatsApp is and click on it, you will see that there's an option to use touch ID or face ID, depending on your device. That would typically look like the screenshot here:
Since the days of the legendary Steve Jobs, Apple has always stated that privacy is primarily about choice. A deliberate decision by a user to allow or disallow what information they can share.
It would seem to me and like-minded individuals, that privacy is not only about the choice to restrict to or share certain information with corporations or developers. That choice also extends to those close friends, spouses, family members, and acquaintances.
Apple default apps particularly iMessage, photos and notes need a lock feature using faceID and touchID. And no, hidden albums on the photos app don't cut it. There's nothing hidden about an album labeled a hidden 🥴. That's the first place where anyone keen to do some snooping would look.