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Is facial recognition coming to the mainstream?

Facial recognition is big news for fall 2017, with Apple bringing the technology to its new iPhone X and Facebook trialing it as a means of verifying ownership when recovering accounts.

Although still subject to some reliability issues, could this long-dreamed-of procedure be set to become part of our daily lives in the long term?

As well as its borderless display, the iPhone X will above all stand out from Apple's other devices with its facial-recognition technology, which the brand is calling FaceID. While most current manufacturers' high-end handsets feature a fingerprint reader or iris scanner to unlock devices, Apple has upped the game by rolling out facial recognition, using various sensors built into the smartphone.

Face ID is billed as a secure way of unlocking the smartphone, authenticating users and authorizing payments. The technology works with the TrueDepth camera, which uses several sensors to analyze more than 30,000 points on the face, even in low light and/or when the user's appearance changes (glasses, beard, etc.) thanks to an automatic learning system. The Apple iPhone X will be available to preorder from October 27, 2017, shipping from November 3, with prices starting at $999.

However, this is by no means a first in the smartphone market. Amazon, for example, previously dabbled with the technology with its Fire Phone back in 2014, although it never really took off with consumers. More recently, Samsung integrated similar technology into its Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 handsets. However, some users have already shown how the system can be duped by using a simple selfie or headshot of the user. As a result, all eyes are on Apple and the reliability of FaceID.

Soon, lucky iPhone X owners may not be the only ones using this type of technology. Facebook -- the social network with two billion active users -- is reportedly trialing facial recognition for use specifically in the account recovery process, according to website TechCrunch. This solution would compare a scanned face to photos of a user published on their account in order to verify the individual's identity. Facial recognition would therefore be a complement to the traditional two-step authentication process used to recover accounts that have been locked or hacked. For the moment, this procedure is in test phase and it's uncertain whether Facebook will deploy this functionality in the future.

Facial recognition also gives rise to a host of technical as well as ethical questions, notably about the storage and security of biometric data.