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I Can’t Unlock My Phone With This Mask On

Oct 11, 2020Uncategorized0 comments

Having trouble unlocking your phone, or using Apple Pay these days? Well if you are #maskingup, you know these minor inconveniences all too well. Masks are throwing facial recognition for a loop, and it doesn’t just stop with your phone.

Rockwell was right in 1984, somebody is always watching. I wonder if Orwell’s 1984 was an inspiration for that…..a post for another time. We are being recorded everywhere we go, and like it or not, your face is getting stored somewhere in a database to be cross referenced later by facial recognition software. Pre-COVID, not many people were wearing masks, but now they are a standard in most places. This change in behavior is really throwing facial recognition software for a loop.

None of these algorithms were designed to handle face masks, and the masks we used are digital creations, not the real thing. -Mei Ngan, a NIST researcher

With privacy becoming more of a concern each day, will masks become the standard? How will this impact crime? Will more people be falsely accused? How will this impact mask manufacturing? Will we begin to see masks designs with intricate patterns purposefully made to fool such facial recognition systems? What other technologies will emerge to identify people? Are we moving towards a minority report timeline? Will biometric eye scans become the new norm? What do you think?

P.S. – Apple updated iOS to ask for your passcode after 1 failed attempt now, not three.


Bostock, Bill. “‘1984,’ George Orwell’s Classic Dystopian Nightmare Was Published 70 Years Ago. Here Are 5 Eerie Predictions That Came True.” Insider, Accessed 11 Oct. 2020.

Cipriani, Jason. “How to Unlock the IPhone Faster When Wearing a Face Mask If Your Phone Lacks Touch ID.” CNET, 9 Apr. 2020, Accessed 11 Oct. 2020.

Conversation, The. “How Facial Recognition Systems Are Adapting to Masks.” Neural | The Next Web, 11 Oct. 2020, Accessed 11 Oct. 2020.

Ng, Alfred. “Your Mask May Beat Even the Best Facial Recognition Tech.” CNET, 27 July 2020, Accessed 11 Oct. 2020. “NIST Launches Studies into Masks’ Effect on Face Recognition Software.” NIST, 27 July 2020, Accessed 11 Oct. 2020.

RockwellVEVO. “Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me (Official Music Video).” YouTube, 7 Oct. 2009, Accessed 11 Oct. 2020.

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