Google’s Pixel 4 will get an option requiring open eyes for face unlock

Google’s Pixel 4 uses a new face recognition system to unlock the phone but it doesn’t require the device owner’s eyes to be open, causing security concerns as anyone can grab the phone and point it at the owner’s face to access potentially sensitive information. Thankfully, this won’t be the case for long as Google said a forthcoming update will add an option remedying the issue.

Instead of sticking with a traditional fingerprint sensor, Google opted for a facial recognition system on its latest Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL smartphones à la Face ID on Apple’s iPhones. It can be used to unlock the phone, but it also meets certain security requirements that allow it to access sensitive apps — like banking apps — and authenticate payments.

But unlike the iPhone, which has a toggle to require a person’s eyes to be open to unlock the device, Pixel 4 reviewers, including yours truly, quickly realized the phone will unlock even if a person’s eyes are closed. Anyone — friend or foe — could easily pick up your phone, point it at your face, and if you’re sleeping or you forced your eyes shut, it wouldn’t matter as the phone would unlock.

Pixel 4 XL Face Unlock girl
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Google is addressing this issue in an update, arriving in the “coming months,” and it will add an option requiring a user’s eyes to be open to unlock the phone — just like on the iPhone.

“In the meantime, if any Pixel 4 users are concerned that someone may take their phone and try to unlock it while their eyes are closed, they can activate a security feature that requires a pin, pattern, or password for the next unlock,” a Google spokesperson told Digital Trends. “Pixel 4 face unlock meets the security requirements as a strong biometric, and can be used for payments and app authentication, including banking apps. It is resilient against invalid unlock attempts via other means, like with masks.”

The temporary solution Google is talking about is Lockdown mode, a feature baked into Android 9 Pie that disables all biometric authentication methods and requires the input of a pin, pattern, or password to access the device. It can be quickly accessed from a phone’s volume menu (tap on the volume buttons), but you’ll need to toggle it on first. To do so, go to Settings > Display > Advanced > Lock screen display and toggle on Show lockdown option.

You’ll now see an option to quickly lock down the phone in the volume menu, and anyone trying to access the device again will need to add a pin, pattern, or password, depending on what you’ve set as your secondary screen lock method.

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are Google’s latest phones, announced at an event on October 15 alongside several other Google products. The phones start at $799 and $899, respectively, and go on sale on October 24.

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