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Pixel 8 Pro Face Unlock fooled by user's brother with distinctly different face

A one-off or a bigger issue? It's hard to tell at this point.

Published onOctober 13, 2023

google pixel 8 pro selfie camera
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
  • Someone’s brother was able to unlock their Pixel 8 Pro using Face Unlock.
  • The facial recognition system on the Pixel 8 series features Class 3 biometric security, so this should not have happened.
  • That said, there’s only one such report we’ve come across till now.

It’s early days for the new Pixel 8 series, but a troubling report about the new Face Unlock system on the phones has popped up on Reddit. Apparently, a Pixel 8 Pro user’s non-identical brother can unlock their phone each time using Face Unlock.

Google upgraded Face Unlock on the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro to make it more secure this time around. In fact, according to Google, the system now meets the highest Android biometric class — Class 3 — requirements. This means it can be used to authenticate payments and verify app sign-ins, something that wasn’t possible on the Pixel 7 series.

The affected user confirms that their brother has similar facial features but that their father looks more like them. “I tried with my dad, who I feel looks more similar, and it (Face Unlock) didn’t work, but I guess Google thinks me and my brother are twins,” the user wrote. They also confirmed that they don’t have Extend Unlock activated on their phone, a feature that keeps Pixel phones unlocked in some user-defined situations.

There's still a margin of error, and foolproof security isn't guaranteed.

This is the first report we’ve seen about the Pixel 8 Pro’s Face Unlock getting fooled by a different face. Class 3 biometric security means there should ideally be a very low chance of the system being deceived by a recorded sample like a photo or a similar-looking person. However, there’s still a margin of error, and foolproof security isn’t guaranteed.

That said, even systems like Apple’s Face ID, which uses depth mapping for facial recognition, can be fooled in the right conditions. It’s possible to accidentally train Face ID on iPhones to someone else’s face if you ask them to enter the phone’s passcode after an unsuccessful facial recognition attempt. Apple’s support document notes, “Face ID will also update this data when it detects a close match, but a passcode is subsequently entered to unlock the device.” Perhaps something similar happens with Face Unlock on the Pixel 8 series, but we can’t say for sure.

We’ll have to wait for the Pixel 8 series to reach more customers and see if they have a similar experience. It’s unfair to deem this a major and widespread issue until we have more details and hear from more Pixel 8 users.

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