Face ID can’t approve family purchases, likely due to higher risk of false match

iPhone X users have been complaining that they are unable to use Face ID to approve app purchase requests by their children.

Every request I get (and with 3 kids I get lots of them!) I’m being forced to type in my Apple ID password, which is frustrating given how complicated they have to be these days to be considered secure […] Interestingly, it still lets me use Touch ID on my iPad to approve so it seems to be specific to the iPhone X/Face ID combo.

Users note that while they can use Touch ID on other devices to approve purchases through the Ask to Buy feature in iOS, it doesn’t work with Face ID …

Arstechnica notes that it’s a particularly problematic issue at this time of year.

Parents of large families with several children, each of whom might have an iOS device available to them, will find that the requests mount up quite quickly—especially right after the holidays. Kids cashing in App Store gift cards add to the requests already coming in from normal use and in-app purchases in games.

The site says that it’s surprising given that Face ID works seamlessly with third-party apps.

We found when reviewing the iPhone X that third-party apps using Touch ID automatically used Face ID instead on that device, with no action needed from Apple. It was a slick, seamless transition, so it’s all the more surprising that it doesn’t work for an iOS feature offered by Apple itself.

However, it’s likely that Apple made a deliberate decision to exclude Face ID from approving family purchases due to the risks of the system being fooled by a child. The company warned when launching the iPhone X that the one-in-a-million odds against the wrong face being able to fool Face ID did not apply to close family members.

However, it’s likely that Apple made a deliberate decision to exclude Face ID from approving family purchases due to the risks of the system being fooled by a child. The company warned when launching the iPhone X that the one-in-a-million odds against the wrong face being able to fool Face ID did not apply to close family members.

Apple specifically noted that the probability of an incorrect match was considerably higher with twins, siblings and children under the age of 13 – and we have indeed since seen examples of all three.

Since the whole point of Ask to Buy is to ensure kids are not able to make purchases without parental approval, this is one example where it makes sense for Apple to err on the side of caution. However, perhaps a sensible compromise would be to allow approval via iPhone passcode rather than the likely more complex Apple ID password.

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