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Can you unlock your iPhone even with the face mask on?

Updating the iOS 13.5 system will improve the facial recognition unlock experience on iPhone, better known as Face ID, but can you do it with your protective mask on?

The new update also includes the ‘Exposure Notifications’ API, which can be used to create the expected COVID-19 case detection app.

One of the changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about is the face mask: it has now become a staple, whether it is going to the store, the supermarket or work for those who carry out essential activities.

This has posed an obstacle to facial unlocking of mobile devices, which is one of the biggest advances in biometric security in recent years.

With the face mask on, the face detection systems do not work properly, as the technology needs to scan thousands of points on the entire face to unlock it.

Can you unlock your iPhone with mask on?

However, the new update to Apple’s iOS system has a ‘surprise’ for unlocking with a mouthpiece.

Users who have iPhone X models onwards will receive the new update to go to iOS 13.5, which will allow you to facilitate the unlocking of your phone even if you have face masks.

Apple reported that the Face ID system, when detecting your face with a mask, will allow you to automatically access the manual box for you to enter your password.

“The unlocking process on Face ID devices has been simplified for when using a mouthpiece. Swipe up from the bottom edge of the locked screen to automatically display the code field when wearing a mouthpiece,” says the iOS 13.5 update.

While it is not full unlock for the iPhone, it is a significant advance in facial recognition technology, especially considering that the face mask covers at least half of the face.

Exposure notifications for COVID-19

The new iOS 13.5 also includes the ‘Exposure Notifications’ API, which can be used by developers of health sector applications from all governments so that they can create the expected COVID-19 case detection app.

The API is the application programming interface, the set of software tools that enables these new exposure notification applications to communicate with the Apple and Google operating systems.

This toolkit condensed in the aforementioned API was developed by Apple and Google, and it will gradually be released on devices through software updates.

“iOS 13.5 contains the ‘Exposure Notifications’ API interface that adds support for public health authorities’ COVID-19 contact tracking apps,” says the update.

Users who have downloaded the app for their region will be able to update their status if they test positive. The iOS and Android systems will anonymously notify other users who have contacted that person.

The system is designed to work with one application per region, such as a country or state, to avoid fragmentation. The companies said that several states in the United States and 22 countries have requested and received access to the system.

Once you have a mobile app, the iOS and Android systems will anonymously notify other users who have contacted a person with COVID-19 who also uses the app.

“User adoption is key to success, and we believe that these strong privacy protections are also the best way to encourage the use of these applications,” Apple and Google said in a statement. “In the past few weeks, our two companies have worked together, reaching out to public health scientists, researchers, privacy groups, and government leaders around the world for their input and guidance.”

Now it is the task of governments and developers to create the apps, based on the API of Google and Apple, to detect possible COVID-19 contacts with whom we have been close. For this, Bluetooth technology is used and not that of GPS for security reasons and greater precision.

Each public health authority will be able to set parameters for what counts as an exposure, such as how long someone spent near another user or how close they were.

However, some governments have criticized the system because it does not allow authorities to store data on who has the virus and to track where it is spreading. Instead, it only notifies people if they have been exposed. This has also highlighted the privacy deficiencies of other approaches, which use location data and store it on government servers.

Public health applications also want to obtain and communicate with additional information from users who have been exposed. So Apple and Google are allowing optional collection of additional data by these apps, including users’ zip codes and phone numbers. These will only be shared if users give permission.

For Android, the tools have been released through the 6.0 or later update received by Google Play.