Google Facial Recognition Patent: Users May Be Able To Make A Face Instead Of Entering A Password

Will This Be A Replacement For Smartphone Passwords?

Passwords may soon be a thing of the past.

As we've seen this week with Motorola's password tattoos and pills announcement and Apple's fingerprint scanner rumor, tech companies are seeking out new ways to enable users to easily access their devices and accounts without having to remember a phrase or code. With Google's facial recognition patent, published online Tuesday, it appears the corporation has devised its own alternative.

According to the U.S. patent, first filed in June 2012, Google's facial recognition method would require users to make a predetermined facial gesture that would then be scanned and compared to a previously captured photo for authentication. Each time a device asks for identification, the user would have to make a face that includes movement of an eye, eyebrow, mouth area, forehead area or nose.

Suggested gestures range from a "wink" or "eyebrow movement" to a "nose wrinkle" or "tongue protrusion."

While facial recognition authentication is nothing new, Google's requirement for a user to make a unique gesture seems to be a new attempt to thwart unauthorized users from accessing devices that don't belong to them. Google's patent even notes how some of the techniques could prevent "prevent erroneous authentication caused by spoofing."

"The idea here is that a hacker can fool a computer with a static image. But moving our faces in a very particular way is a unique marker that not even an impostor can fool. At least that's the theory," writes Rebecca Greenfield in The Atlantic Wire.

Back in 2011, one clever blogger pointed out that the Android app Face Unlock, which let the user's face act as a device password, could be duped with nothing more than a printed photo. By June 2012, Google had rolled out a fix for the simple hack, debuting a "liveness check," which asks users to blink before the app unlocks the phone. However, the "solution" also had a flaw that anyone with basic photo editing skills could get around.

Since Google's new(ish) patent is still pending approval, when and how the company's new facial recognition method will be implemented are still anyone's guess.

Google could not comment on the specifics at this time.

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