Look, OK, some of you are going to blast me as a chump who’s willing to give up her face to Big Tech for convenience, but I really hope this rumor that Face ID may be coming to Macs is true.
9to5Mac discovered code in the third beta of macOS Big Sur that refers to “PearlCamera,” an internal codename for Apple’s TrueDepth camera and Face ID. Other code such as “FaceDetect” and “BioCapture” were also discovered. These code snippets are similar to ones used in iOS, but 9to5Mac says it doesn’t appear to be something that’s been repurposed from Apple’s Catalyst, which helps developers easily make iOS versions of Mac apps. Meaning, it’s likely Apple is prepping a version of Face ID that’s specifically built for Macs.
That said, it may be a while before a Mac with a TrueDepth camera is announced. Not only is the code in early stages, but it’s also possible the tech will ultimately rely on Apple’s ARM-based chips to work. That’s partly because the Neural Engine on Apple’s A-series processors is a major part of what makes Face ID work in the first place. The first Macs with Apple silicon are expected to come later this year—possibly a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro, maybe a MacBook Air—but it’s unclear whether any new Mac will have a TrueDepth camera along with it.
Right now, you can unlock MacBook Pros and the MacBook Air with Touch ID (or if you own an Apple Watch, you can unlock Macs with that, too). That’s pretty convenient if you’re working off just the laptop itself. But my actual work station involves plopping my MacBook Pro onto a stand. It functions as a secondary screen, while I let my poor, garbage eyes stare at a much bigger 27-inch 4K monitor as my primary screen. It also means if I want to unlock my computer, I have to reach over and contort my arm under a desk lamp to reach the Touch ID sensor. Is this entirely my fault and the result of a cramped desk? Absolutely, it is 100% my fault. Am I lazy? You betcha.
Some may rant and rave, shaking their fists to the sky that this is an egregious example of Apple impinging upon the very privacy it publicly pledges to protect. However, it’s a good reminder that Face ID on both the iPhone and iPad does not store your face in the cloud. All of that is stored locally, on-device, and Apple has said itself that it never gets backed up to iCloud. Am I, perhaps, a rube to take Apple at its word? Quite possibly. Still, it’s not as if facial recognition features like Windows Hello don’t already exist. Plus, there’s no indication that you would have to opt in. Face ID on both the iPad and iPhone are things you can choose not to enroll in—and there are good reasons to disable Face ID on your phone, especially if you’re going to a protest. Still, I won’t be taking my laptop outside of my apartment for the foreseeable future and there’s no reason to assume that Apple wouldn’t let you opt out of Face ID for a future laptop.
Look, I, too, have watched Mr. Robot and am aware that on rare occasions, hackers can potentially hijack webcams to record people without their knowledge. I, too, have placed washi tape over my Mac’s webcam. Perhaps the conspiracy theorists are right and this potential move has something to do with Apple recently warning folks not to close their laptops while webcam covers are on. But I am also confident that this is something that can work with webcam covers. Maybe it’s as easy as removing the webcam cover for ten seconds to unlock my Mac with my shriveled visage before putting it back on. I don’t know. I am tired. Let me have this.