As a sure sign of the times, the latest "complaint" from people is a face mask is preventing facial recognition to unlock Apple devices.  Sure COVID19 is running a muck, but if you're home self isolating or otherwise not out in public, having your phone unlock quickly is a priority.  After all, the end of days is coming, and we all need to snapchat our lives away, right?

The Problem

Apple Face ID requires a few points of contact on your face in order to work. Specifically, your eyes, nose, and mouth contribute to your digital pattern Apple uses to recognize you, instead of someone else. With a world pandemic on our hands, people have taken to wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, face masks, and other clothing. The idea is that the PPE prevents anyone who doesn't know they have a virus from spreading it, curbing the increase of cases in the pandemic, and ultimately slowing the pandemic to prevent runs on hospitals. Honestly, PPE works when used with good practices like social distancing.

Samsung Counter Solutions

While I'd love to pick on Apple for their security, I don't think I can this time.  There's been several noted cases where other facial recognition software on non-Apple devices failed in a blaze of glory.

Samsung touts the new Intelligent Scan facial recognition system in the Galaxy S9 as better than the easily fooled system used in the S8, but there’s no real-world change for owners of the new device. Samsung’s facial recognition technology remains far less secure than Apple’s Face ID.

Trouble getting Apple Facial Recognition to work with a Mask

Samsung has tried to bring their Android hardware and software up to par with Apple, tackling the task of iris scanning, combined with the normal biometric fingerprint reader.  The thing is, the iris scanner failed completely to stop anyone from unlocking your phone.  Relisticly, the iris scanner didn't protect your device from non-you users.  Translation:  It unlocked for anyone most of the time, and iris scanning was a joke.  

“The phones can be unlocked by the face of a sleeping person, or even just by a photo,” an unnamed industry source told the Korea Herald. “For now, the facial recognition technology is only intended for fun. It should not be considered as a foolproof security measure.”

Guess that means it really isn't a good idea to try and use the facial recognition software on Android if you own a Samsung.  Sad really, that the security features of a device are seen as "fun".

Apple Solution

If you own an Apple device, and are frustrated by the need to wait while your facial recognition fails to see you under a mask, a solution is coming from Apple.  In the beta release of iOS 13.5, one of the features being added is the ability for your device to recognize when you're wearing a mask, then default to a password / pin unlock, bypassing the facial recognition piece.  Apple decided that trying to recognize the face of someone who's covered in too big a task, and instead opted to have it default back to password entry.

This is a quick and easy solution, as it bypasses the wait time for facial recognition (which will fail) and goes straight to pin entry.  Granted, most people don't want to be bothered with a passcode entry, either, which is why they setup facial recognition to begin with.

Some other quick solutions could be:

Ultimately, facial recognition software can be "fooled" to think your face is supposed to have a mask on.  The tricks shown to get the facial recognition to work is honestly not a great idea.  You are essentially reducing the security of your device by telling it to recognize a mangled face.  Instead, either wait for the release of iOS 13.5, remove your face mask, or use another entry (like pin, passcode, etc).  

Final Thoughts

Reducing the security of your device for your convenience is like having a peeing section in the public pool.  No good will come from this.  Be patient, take the time to unlock your device (or perhaps set the lock time a little later), and adapt to the new world of face masks.

If you have tried any of the tricks for working around a face mask, please drop a comment and let us know what worked, what didn't, and what failed completely.  Stay safe everyone!