Is It Safe to Use Android’s Face Unlock Security Feature?

This is a guest post by Aubrey Samson

One of the most recent innovations in cameras has come from Android: face detection security feature for mobile phones.

Essentially, what it does is that instead of a PIN lock, a pattern or any password combination, the device takes a snapshot validation of your face. When it recognizes you as the registered owner of the phone, you will enter into the home screen.

Otherwise, the phone will either be locked or the phone just won’t be accessed by any other person besides you. This feature is made possible by a chip with extreme processing power that detects faces.

However, there have been some debates regarding the safety of its security related to accuracy and some trips. In this article, we will discuss if this is indeed safe to use or not.

How does the face detection work?

The face detection feature detects human faces including the structure of the eyes and nose, distance between the eyes and nose, facial structure, size, and skin tone in digital images. It is equipped with a computer algorithm which disregards the background in the picture such as trees, buildings and other things.

It takes the face of the person only as the focused input and compares it against the originally recorded face in the internal database of the system (memory storage). If an identified face is found to be a match, the phone is unlocked.

Flaw From the First Release (Android ICS)

It doesn’t take a genius hacker to unlock a phone fitted with this face recognition software without personally using the owner’s face. An easy step to do the trick is to get a photo of the owner and face it toward the phone’s front-facing camera. The photo will surely match the registered one, for they are of the same person.

Adding to the flaw is the fact that the computer algorithm bypasses the accessories the person is wearing. For instance, if the owner was wearing a cap or his eyes were framed with glasses in the registered photo, even if he’s not wearing a cap or eyeglasses in the picture presented, the phone would still grant access to the hoodwink.

Flaws From the Newest Release—Jelly Bean Version of the Face Detection

Google-Android received tons of criticism in the first release of Face Unlock in the Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. In response, Google has released a newer version in its Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS. What the update does is that it takes a live video, prompting a “liveness check” that requires phone users to blink first before it permits the phone to be unlocked when it recognizes the face.

Albeit adding an extra layer of security, the blink procedure is not an efficient option when compared to the traditional unlocking procedures mentioned in the introduction. Also, the possibility of hacking the device is extant.

While you’re reading this, hackers are thinking of strategies and smart ways to “doctor” the video or animated GIF of the owner’s face. So despite this feature’s coolness, Face Unlock as of now cannot be considered as Android’s killer feature. It cannot be trusted as a method to keep your phone secured.


Used in biometrics, face detection is like a subset of a facial recognition system. It is mostly used together with digital cameras (both for still photos and video surveillance) through human computer interface and image database management. In mobile phones, Android has first issued the use of the Face Unlock feature. Safe or not was the question.

By now, you should know the answer. It’s a big NO! Based on the flaws discussed, depending on Android Face Unlock security feature to protect your smartphone is a bad choice. But we’re not entirely closing our doors to Google’s initial attempts of developing for this experiment. Google-Android can still earn our trust—when bugs are completely ironed out.

Author bio:

Aubrey Samson is a freelance programmer, an annual mountaineer and a former mathematics Tutor. She’s also into watching 3D movies, listening to music and composing songs, Her influences are pop and R&B. Follow her escapades on her Twitter.


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  1. Although face detection and all that sound very high tech and cool, I don’t think the proper technology is there, yet.
    The best unlocking feature would be to develop some sort of real finger scanner. That would be like no other…

  2. Andrew Walsh says:

    I agree that the technology still has a long way to do. There are just too many risks. But I’m sure it will steadily improve, and your idea would be a very interesting one! Wonder if they’ll try something like that.

  3. Android mobile phones have different type of unlock security features. I never used Android face unlock security feature myself as I believe normal password code is enough. You have written beautifully regarding this unlock security feature.

  4. Nice post..i haven’t try this have explained the process very neatly..thanks for the share..

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