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Jelly Bean Makes Face Unlock More Secure With “Liveness Check”

With the Android version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich came a new feature to the lock screen for unlocking. It is called Face Unlock and just like the name suggests, it lets you unlock your phone in a cool, sci-fi way. The feature makes use of your phone’s camera to recognize the authorised user’s face and unlock the phone only when the camera sees that face. That is extremely cool, but it turned out that it is also a very unsecure way to lock your your phone.

Many Android users have still not got their hands on Ice Cream Sandwich update to their smartphones due to continuous delays and hence have not yet experienced Face Unlock thus not yet encountered it’s shortcoming.

The Face Unlock feature in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is not intelligent enough to distinguish between a real face and a photograph. As a result, the Face Unlock feature can be fooled to unlock the phone by anyone with a photo of the authorised person.

Google has recognised this bug in the feature and has thus added a “Liveness Check” capability to Face Unlock. Liveness Check or simply the ability to check if a face is alive or otherwise. The “liveness check” feature has been added to Face Unlock in Android version 4.1 Jelly Bean.

With “Liveness Check”, Face Unlock will look for signs of animation in a face, that is, in this case, an eye blink. If the eye blinks, the software recognizes it as a sign of life and thus not a photograph.

The feature still has a couple of shortcomings. The first one being that, the software will respond positively to a blink only when the eye is wide open. This method of unlocking the phone was slow without “Liveness Check”, but with it, it is even slower. The time required to unlock your phone takes all the coolness out of it. If you choose to use it as the standard way of unlocking your phone, you will soon be tired of it. It is only good enough when you want to show off in front of your non Android friends.