New York City's MTA Urges Apple to Further Protect Riders During Pandemic

Joanna Estrada
August 12, 2020

The country's largest public transit authority, New York City's MTA, has a problem: Riders are taking off their masks to unlock their iPhones.

An update to the company's Face ID feature is now in the works, but in a letter to CEO Tim Cook, MTA Chair Pat Foye requested the technology be expedited.

Since April, New York's public transportation system has been requiring all passengers to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The MTA lost more than 90 per cent of its subway ridership, which along with reduced revenue at its other properties has created a fiscal hole that will take years to fill, officials have said.

Still, the masks don't always remain on.

In addition to updated technology, Foye said Apple could also remind customers to use a passcode to unlock their phones, instead of the Face ID feature, to incentivize riders to keep face coverings on. But the company made no mention on whether it would fulfill the MTA's request.

Any iPhone user will already be well aware that Face ID simply doesn't work when you're wearing a face mask. But it comes at the cost of security, making the facial recognition easier to fool. It stands to reason, with Face ID needing to see your face so it can decide whether you're who you say you are.

Before they could unlock their iPhone with a passcode, they had to wait for Face ID to reject their mask-covered face and then finally show the passcode screen.

Foye even offered to help Apple spread the word about any modifications that'll make it possible to use Face ID with a mask.

The MTA is willing to collaborate on that messaging - whether through in-device notifications or signage in MTA stations and on trains, he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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