Apple: don’t use Face ID on an iPhone X if you’re under 13 or have a twin

Facial recognition system is 20 times more secure than Touch ID, but struggles with young users and siblings

The iPhone X might be the future of Apples smartphone design, but its lauded Face ID facial recognition system has an issue with people under 13: its much more difficult to tell them apart.

In a security guide published Wednesday, Apple recommends that children under the age of 13 do not use Face ID due to the probability of a false match being significantly higher for young children. The company said this was because their distinct facial features may not have fully developed.

While few young children are likely to be given a 999 iPhone, false matches are also more likely for twins and siblings. In all those situations, the company recommends concerned users disable Face ID and use a passcode instead.

For most users those over 13 without evil twins, as Apples head of iOS Craig Federighi describes them the bigger concern is deliberate attacks. Touch ID, Apples fingerprint sensor, was famously bypassed just two days after it was launched in the iPhone 5S, using a fake fingerprint placed over a real finger.

With Face ID, Apple has implemented a secondary system that exclusively looks out for attempts to fool the technology. Both the authentication and spoofing defence are based on machine learning, but while the former is trained to identify individuals from their faces, the latter is used to look for telltale signs of cheating.

An additional neural network thats trained to spot and resist spoofing defends against attempts to unlock your phone with photos or masks, the company says. If a completely perfect mask is made, which fools the identification neural network, the defensive system will still notice just like a human.

Apple is also confident that it wont fall prey to issues of algorithmic bias that have plagued many attempts to use neural networks at scale. High-profile examples of such failures include the photo-labelling system that ltagged black people as gorillas, or the word-association model which states that men are computer programmers and women are homemakers.

Whenever its initial training exposed a demographic shortcoming, Apple says, it augmented the studies as needed to provide a high degree of accuracy for a diverse range of users. Time and millions of people around the world using the technology will tell whether the effort worked, but the company sounds confident.

One area the system will struggle with, however, is facial coverings. Apple says that Face ID is designed to work with hats, scarves, glasses, contact lenses and many sunglasses, but ultimately two things dictate whether or not it has a chance of success. The first is whether the coverings are transparent to infrared light, and the second whether the system can see the eyes, nose and mouth. While some fabrics are more transparent to infrared than they may seem, that means iPhone users who cover their faces may be forced to rely on a passcode when out and about.

Separately, Apple has also confirmed that the depth-sensing technology included in the iPhone X is not allowed to be used by developers to create their own facial biometrics, a possibility which had concerned many privacy activists.

The depth sensor data is not directly available to developers, but the camera API now allows them to receive a pixel-by-pixel measure of how far features in an image are from the lens, a system intended to be used to enable image manipulation such as Apples own portrait mode.

That could theoretically be used to build a standalone authentication feature, albeit one that is less precise than Apples own, but the company has updated its App Store policies to prevent developers from attempting to do so. You may not attempt, facilitate, or encourage others to identify anonymous users or reconstruct user profiles based on data collected from depth and/or facial mapping tools, the companys developer guidelines now state.

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10 Truth Bombs to Drop at your Next Dinner Party

1. There are more trees on Earth
than stars in the Milky Way Galaxy


Photograph by Layne Lawson

In a September 2015 paper published in the scientific journal Nature entitled “Mapping tree density at a global scale†an estimate for the number of trees on Earth was approximately 3.04 trillion.
Meanwhile, according to NASA the generally accepted answer for number of stars in the Milky way is between 100 and 400 billion. [source]

2. Speaking of stars, guess how many miles (or km)
the nearest star (after our Sun) to Earth is?


Photograph by ESO/Y. Beletsky

Like objects in your side-view mirror, stars in the night sky seem a lot closer than they are. Alpha Centauri is the closest ‘star system’ to us at an approximate distance of 4.37 light-years which works out to roughly 25 trillion miles or 40 trillion km away. 😳

3. Alaska is simultaneously the most northern,
the most western, and the most eastern state in the US


Wait, what? Look on a map and it’s easy to see that Alaska is the United States’ most northern and western state. But eastern? That’s because the Aleutian Islands are part of Alaska and stretch beyond the 180° line of longitude (which is measured from Greenwich) thus placing some of the islands technically in the Eastern hemisphere, since the dividing line for the eastern/western hemisphere is at 180° (source)

4. ‘Oxymoron’ is an oxymoron


The term was first recorded as latinized Greek oxymÅrum and is derived from the Greek where ‘oxys’ means “sharp, keen, pointed” and ‘moros’ means “dull, stupid, foolish”. Oxymoron is also an autological word, which means it expresses a property that is also possesses (e.g. the word “noun” is a noun, “English” is English, “pentasyllabic” has five syllables, and “word” is a word) [source]

5. If you start counting at one and spell out the numbers
as you go, you won’t use the letter “A” until you reach 1,000


6. Oxford University is (way) Older than the Aztec Empire


Photograph by Chensiyuan

Older, like it’s not even close. As the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford is a unique and historic institution. While there is no clear date of foundation, teaching existed at Oxford in some form in 1096 and developed rapidly from 1167, when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. [source]
Conversely, the Aztec Empire, or the Triple Alliance, began as an alliance of three Nahua “altepetl” city-states: Mexico-Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. These three city-states ruled the area in and around the Valley of Mexico from 1428 until they were defeated by the combined forces of the Spanish conquistadores and their native allies under Hernán Cortés in 1521. [source]

7. The official animal of Scotland is… the Unicorn


Royal Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Scotland used from the 12th century to 1603


According to The Scotsman: in Celtic mythology, the Unicorn of Scotland symbolized innocence and purity, healing powers, joy and even life itself, and was also seen as a symbol of masculinity and power. It has been a Scottish heraldic symbol since the 12th century and today, the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland still has the English lion on the left and the Scottish unicorn on the right. [source]

8. There was a third Apple co-founder, Ronald Wayne.
He sold his 10% stake for $800 in 1976.
Today it would be worth roughly $75.5 billion


Ronald Wayne worked with Steve Jobs at Atari before he, Jobs, and Wozniak founded Apple Computer on April 1, 1976. Serving as the venture’s “adult supervision”, Wayne drew the first Apple logo, wrote the three men’s original partnership agreement, and wrote the Apple I manual.
Wayne received a 10% stake in Apple. Less than two weeks later, on April 12, 1976 he relinquished his equity for US$800. Legally, all members of a partnership are personally responsible for any debts incurred by any partner; unlike Jobs and Wozniak, then 21 and 25, Wayne had personal assets that potential creditors could seize. The failure of a slot machine company, which he had started five years earlier also contributed to his decision to exit the partnership.
Later in 1976, venture capitalist Arthur Rock and Mike Markkula helped develop an Apple business plan and converted the partnership to a corporation. A year after leaving Apple, Wayne received $1,500 for his agreement to forfeit any claims against the new company. [source]

9. With just 70 people, there is a 99.9% chance
that two people share the same birthday


23 people is all it takes for there to be a 50/50 chance that two of the people share a birthday. The ‘birthday paradox‘ provides a valuable lesson in probability and reveals our tendency to think linearly instead of exponentially.
You can find a thorough mathematical explanation of the birthday paradox here, but at it’s core, we tend to think of our birthday compared to the 22 other people so there are 22 chances. But when all 23 birthdays are compared against each other, it makes for much more than 22 comparisons.
So the first person has 22 comparisons to make, but the second person was already compared to the first person, so there are only 21 comparisons to make. The third person then has 20 comparisons, the fourth person has 19 and so on. If you add up all possible comparisons (22 + 21 + 20 + 19 + … +1) the sum is 253 comparisons, or combinations. Check out the table below to see how the probability increases as the number of people do. [source]

The following table shows the probability for some other values of n (this table ignores the existence of leap years, as described above, as well as assuming that each birthday is equally likely)

10. There’s enough water in Lake Superior
to cover North and South America in a foot of water


Photograph by Lorie Shaull

To talk of Lake Superior is to talk in superlatives. Its 3 quadrillion gallons are enough to cover both North and South America under a foot of water; it holds 10% of the world’s surface fresh water supply; at 31,700 square miles (82,100 sq km) it’s roughly the size of Maine.
If all 7 billion people on Earth drank a gallon of water per day it would collectively take us 1,174 years to drain it. [source]

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Australia’s government turns the heat up on encrypted messaging apps

The Australian government is cracking down on encrypted apps.
Image: Getty Images

The jig is up for encrypted messaging, in the eyes of the Australian government.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Friday morning the government will bring in new laws to force tech companies to hand over data protected by encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal.

It’s in light of increased use of encryption in cases related to terrorism, drugs trafficking, and paedophilia rings. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said 65 percent of serious investigations now involve some sort of encryption.

“At the end of the day, what has happened here is legislation has not yet kept pace with technology,” AFP’s deputy commissioner, Michael Phelan, said during a press conference.

The new laws will be modelled on the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, which gives intelligence agencies the power to de-encrypt communications.

But here’s the problem: Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal use end-to-end encryption, which means the key to accessing these messages is held by the sender and the receiver, and not by the company.

So will these companies have to build a backdoor to these encrypted apps, creating a vulnerability that can be taken advantage by hackers with the right tools?

Well, Turnbull isn’t explicitly asking for a backdoor. Authorities will force companies to give access to these encrypted communications “lawfully” via a warrant or a court order.

“What we need is the cooperation where we can compel it, but we will need the cooperation from the tech companies to provide access in accordance with the law,” Turnbull said.

Encryption keys are devised by a mathematical formula. Asked if whether the laws of mathematics would curb the government’s bid to crack end-to-end encryption, Turnbull said Australia’s laws would overrule. No, you read that right.

“Well, the laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that. The laws of mathematics are very commendable but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia,” he said.

Given terrorists aren’t just using readily available messaging apps, it remains to be seen how the government’s proposed laws will deal with the problem of the dozens of encryption packages out there.

It likely won’t work in reality

Matthew Warren, a cyber security professor at Deakin University, said intelligence agencies will potentially focus their efforts on how they can intercept messages in realtime. But that’s unlikely to work.

“The problem is if it would work in reality. It would only work if you knew the terrorist target that you were tracking, and actually knew what technologies they were using,” he explained.

“In order for this to work in realtime it means the intelligence organisations will need access to the encryption keys. Apple and Facebook and WhatsApp aren’t going to do that.”

Even if certain companies agree to create a backdoor to their apps, Warren said those looking to break the law could simply change to one of the many dozen encrypted apps available on the market.

Nevertheless, he expects “a number of countries” will look to implement similar legal powers, after a G20 statement on countering terrorism encouraged companies to collaborate with law enforcement on providing “lawful and non-arbitrary access to available information.”

Facebook and Apple stand firm on encryption

Following a series of terrorist attacks, Facebook announced it will be using artificial intelligence and employed a team of 150 counterrorism experts to stop terrorist activity on its platform. But it will stop short of weakening encryption for authorities.

“We appreciate the important work law enforcement does, and we understand their need to carry out investigations,” a Facebook spokesperson said via email.

“That’s why we already have a protocol in place to respond to requests where we can. At the same time, weakening encrypted systems for them would mean weakening it for everyone.”

WhatsApp, which Facebook owns, won’t succumb to pressure either. Its co-founder Brian Acton stated in January it will “fight any government request to create a backdoor.”

Apple wouldn’t comment directly on the Australian government’s pressure on encrypted messaging, but pointed to a statement by CEO Tim Cook in which he said the company will never allow backdoor access to its products to any government agency.

We’ll find out if the Australian government’s plans hold much if any water, when the legislation is put to the country’s Parliament by the end of the year.

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Apple set to make big waves in the the app economy

Apple CEO Tim Cook (right) talks to the author in 2015 about Apple's perspective on code and education.
Image: Elizabeth Pierson/mashable

Welcome to Apple College. School is in session.

Everyone I know has a mobile app idea. I even have a few, but little idea of how to build an iPhone app.

Last year, I tried learning code with Apples Swift Playgrounds iPad app. It schooled me in the basics of Swift, the new programming language Apple unveiled three years ago, while entertaining me with an adorable on-screen code buddy. I liked it, but also had trouble seeing the path from my training (which, to be fair, I never completed) to building a Swift-based mobile iOS app. Swift Playgrounds also launched at the same time as Apples K-12 Everybody Can Code educational curriculum materials.

Now, though, the path is clearer as Apple has launched its first ever college-level code curriculumwith it, Apples Swift-based curriculum now spans from kindergarten through the first two years of college.

Available for free starting Wednesday in Apples iBooks, the curriculum includes everything students and teachers need to learn how to code in Swift and build real mobile apps.

We couldnt be happier about rolling this out and getting it under way, Apple CEO Tim Cook told me on Tuesday.

Two years earlier, Cook told me how he believed everyone should learn how to code and that coding should be a required course like social studies, English, and mathematics in every public-school curriculum. But, until now, that vision had never extended beyond the K-12 education system and into the non-compulsory school arena.

Apples new App Development Curriculum is, Cook told me, Designed for both community college and high school students who want to learn how to develop apps and pursue careers in what is the fastest growing job segment in the economy.

The app economy is substantial. App Annie put mobile app revenue at roughly $51 billion in 2016 and projects it to be over $100 billion by 2020. That kind of growth means the demand for skilled app workers is growing.

One benefit of [Apples App Development Curriculum] is that if you look at the 2 million Jobs weve created in the economy, about three-quarters of those, give or take are in app development, said Cook, That segment of economy has really grown leaps and bounds since the introduction of the App Store in 2008.

Apple hopes to help people of all ages enter this workforce with a year-long course that was developed and designed by Apple educators and engineers, some of whom came directly from Apples platform engineering team.

While the curriculum targets late high school and college students, Cook sees the potential for anyone who wants to download the course. It could, he told me, be for someone mid-career or looking to make a career change, or even some just looking to learn something new or a new hobby.

A look at part of the App Development Curriculum lesson plan.

Image: Apple

The start of an app programming project.

Image: Apple

The coursewhich comprises roughly 180 hours of training and includes lesson plans, presentations, instructions, and exerciseswill provide the framework for teachers to guide students through the fundamentals of Swift programming and have students build real, functioning apps. The curriculum will even include some of the architectural work necessary for scaling up an app.

Even though this announcement comes just two weeks before Apples World Wide Developers Conference, Cook insists that the two are not related.

Instead, in order to “make the academic year” they announced the course so “community colleges could begin communicating this to prospective students.

It appears Apple is already on schedule. Seven community college systems serving half a million students have already adopted Apples App Development Curriculum, with some planning to teach it as early as this summer.

Among them is Houston Community College (HCC), where Dr. Madeline Burillo, president of HCC Southwest College, is so excited about the course, she signed up for it herself. The key factor to Swift is that it is much more intuitive, making it easier for people to learn, she said in a written statement.

‘We’re excited about where it could lead and how many it can help in this new economy.’ Tim Cook

HCC Chancellor Dr. Cesar Maldonado said, This partnership is one that will benefit our community by teaching students a valuable skill and it will benefit Apple by providing future developers who are trained specifically for the needs of the iOS community.

The focus on community colleges is not accidental.

A 2015 survey of community colleges found that 6.3 million people were enrolled in public, two-year colleges. Of those attending these schools, many (44 percent, according to the Education Longitudinal Study covering 2002 to 2006) were low-income students. These schools also often serve women and minorities.

Putting these tools in the hands of these schools could, Apple hopes, serve as a new engine of economic development.

In a statement provided to me, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner applauded Apples new college-level curriculum. Apple’s investment in our community with the launch of the app development curriculum will tap into the creativity of our students, inspire new possibilities, and foster our culture of technological transformation.

Apples interest in education is, Cook reminded me, deep in its DNA.

“We’re excited about where it could lead and how many it can help in this new economy,” he said.

Even so, the expansion of the program comes just weeks after Apple announced a $1 billion fund to support manufacturing jobs in the United States, and (at least for now) the new App Development Curriculum is focused on U.S. colleges. I had to wonder, is Apple trying to send a message to the Trump administration that Apple also cares deeply about American job growth?

Cook quickly dismissed the idea.

We began working on Swift many years ago. It spanned multiple administrations. No this isnt related to anything to do with politics.

He did grant though, that the impact Apple has been able to make on manufacturing, what he termed a ripple in the pond, could be mirrored in a similar, albeit larger, ripple in the pond for the mobile app area.

Ultimately, Apples new App Development Curriculum is part of a much larger, still unrecognized plan. Its sort of the next step of a long plan for us with Swift and trying to help prepare people for the new economy, said Cook.

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Russian bill requires encryption backdoors in all messenger apps

Backdoors into encrypted communicationsmay soon be mandatory in Russia.

A new bill in the Russian Duma, the country’s lower legislative house, proposes to make cryptographic backdoors mandatory in all messaging apps in the country so the Federal Security Servicethe successor to the KGBcan obtain special access to all communications within the country.

Apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and Telegram, all of which offer varying levels of encrypted security for messages, are specifically targeted in the “anti-terrorism” bill, according to Russian-language media. Fines for offending companies could reach 1 million rubles or about $15,000.

The new Russian legislation, which has already been approved by the Committee on Security, is just the latest such flare up in a global debate over encryption that earned a bright spotlight in the U.S. earlier this year, particularly after the San Bernardino terrorist attack led the FBI to plead for access to one of the shooter’s encrypted iPhones.

Russian Senator Yelena Mizulina argued that the new bill ought to become law because, she said, teens are brainwashed in closed groups on the internet to murder police officers, a practice protected by encryption. Mizulina then went further.

“Maybe we should revisit the idea of pre-filtering ,” she said. “We cannot look silently on this.”

Encryption uses advanced mathematics to protect data so that even the world’s most powerful computers cannot unlock data they are not meant to have access to. The technology is used in various ways to protect everything from credit card transactions on the internet to your emails and internet traffic.

Government focus on encryption intensified in recent months afterAppleand Googleoffered encryption options on their smartphones. WhatsApp, with over 1 billion users around the world, offers encryption on messaging.

The technology is seen as a fundamental cornerstone of cybersecurity,such that if a business is not using encryption to protect sensitive data, it’s often deemed irresponsible by experts.

But just as encryption keeps out crooks, it keeps out governments, law enforcement, and intelligence agency spying. That’s led to high-level debates around the globe about the rising popularity of encryption.

While government authorities around the world argue in favor of special access backdoors, a vast consensus of technologists argue such backdoors will undermine cybersecurity and create an internet more dangerous and volatile than ever before.

H/TAnton Nesterov

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Apple wants to teach kids how to code, here’s how it’ll happen

Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn’t mince words when it comes to children’s education.

“We believe coding should be a required language in all schools,” Cook said at Apple’s WWDC on Monday.

To that end, the company is launching Swift Playgrounds, a new app for the iPad that teaches kids to code in a simple, colorful way. Through Swift, the programming language Apple launched two years ago, kids can learn the fundamentals of coding, commanding playable characters to executing tasks.

Challenges get more advanced as the games progress, and Swift Playgrounds provides a preview of the content with graphics and a description of the steps you take as you progress through each challenge. The app will be available on iOS 10 in the fall.


The learn-to-code movement is sweeping across the U.S., largely due to the expected influx of jobs needed in computer science and other sciences, technology, and mathematics (STEM) fields in the coming years. There will be a huge need for technical jobs but a lack of talent to fill them.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 71 percent of available jobs in STEM industries are in computing, but just eight percent of STEM graduates have degrees in computer science; computing jobs are expected to grow at twice the rate of jobs in other areas.

Stepping up to fill the gap between the education systems and the workforce are companies, nonprofits, and government-sponsored educational programs that aim to bring computer science and coding courses to classrooms. Apple’s efforts include providing Swift Playgrounds for free on all iPads, a device that is popular with teachers and educators.

Perhaps the most widely recognized effort is that of, a nonprofit working to bring coding education to all levels of K-12 study. Backed by some of the biggest names in tech, including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook, the organization rallies classrooms across the country to learn to code through both paper and digital activities.

President Barack Obama participated in the organization’s Hour of Code in 2014, becoming the first sitting president to learn to code.

The learn-to-code movement is not without detractors. Coding jobs are just one part of the technology industry, and while it’s helpful to understand the building blocks of the apps and services we use every day, cultivating digital literacy is perhaps more important than being able to write and execute algorithms or build an app.

Of course, addressing the dearth of digital literacy or coding programs in the classroom by stopgapping the lack of programs with apps built by technology giants could have a ripple effect throughout educational institutions.

For Apple, the solution is obvious: Give kids and schools a free app to teach them Swift, and they will, in turn, build apps for Apple’s platform. It’s a win-win situation for all those involved.

At Monday’s WWDC keynote, the youngest audience member was 9 years old. And in introducing Swift Playgrounds, Cook said that he hopes “this gift to kids and schools around the world” helps to make coding a daily part of education programs so other youngsters can be introduced early to a world of apps and software.

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