Commonwealth Bank adds Face ID functionality on iPhone X launch day

Customers using secure fingerprint logins to banking app 30 million times a month

Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has announced customers will be able to log-in to its app with Face ID, the facial recognition technology built into Apple’s new iPhone X.

The iPhone X went on sale today in Sydney, with hundreds of people queueing up outside Apple’s store in George Street to be among the first in the world to get their hands on the 10th anniversary iPhone model.

CBA claims to be the first Australian bank to offer customers secure access to their accounts using Face ID.

“Our customers use secure fingerprint logins on the CommBank App about 30 million times a month,” said Pete Steel, CBA executive general manager of digital.

“Extending that functionality to Face ID is part of our ongoing work to provide a better banking experience to our customers through simple, easy and secure features."

Face ID a form of biometric authentication. Apple uses a combination of infrared emitter and sensor (which it calls TrueDepth) to paint 30,000 points of infrared light on and around your face. The reflection is measured, which allows it to calculate depth and angle from the camera for each dot. That lets it create a ‘depth map’ of your face that can be used to compare against later.

Apple says the face data is encrypted and within a ‘Secure Enclave’ on the device.

“This data never leaves the device. It is not sent to Apple, nor is it included in device backups,” Apple wrote in a September overview of the technology.

Despite the reassurances, privacy experts have been spooked by the indication Apple’s privacy promises do not extend to app developers who can gain access to facial data to build features.

Apple reportedly allows developers to take certain facial data off the phone as long as they agree to seek customer permission and not sell the data to third parties, among other terms in a contract seen by Reuters.

CBA said it would not be taking facial data off of customer phones.

Commenting about the bank's use of Face ID in general, Steel said: “While we strive towards convenience and ease of use, we don't implement new technology without being able to guarantee security for customers.”

Earlier this week CBA announced it was one of three banks (with Westpac and NAB) backing a joint venture that will build cross-platform mobile payment services.

Read more: ​Apple’s mobile devices a platform for AI, COO says

The banks said that they hoped the ventures first initiative, called Beem, would become “an industry-wide payment solution”.

The three banks backing Beem previously banded together to challenge Apple, which in 2015 launched Apple Pay in Australia. Of the big four banks, only ANZ has struck a deal to offer Apple Pay to its customers.

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Tags AppleiPhoneauthenticationWestpaccommbankbiometricsNABCBACommonwealth Bank of AustraliaANZiPhone XBig FourleatherfaceFace ID

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