New York MTA asks Apple to ‘accelerate’ process to unlock iPhone while wearing mask

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority has asked Apple to develop alternate ways for iPhone users to unlock their devices, saying subway riders are removing facemasks to activate facial recognition.

MTA Chairman Patrick Foye warned in a letter to CEO Tim Cook that the practice of removing masks could spread the novel coronavirus on public transportation, The Associated Press reported.

“We understand Apple is working to address the issue and know that Apple has a range of technologies at its disposal as a global leader among tech companies,” Foye wrote in the letter sent Sunday. “We urge Apple to accelerate the deployment of new technologies and solutions that further protect customers in the era of COVID-19.”

Apple has already responded to the pandemic by letting users proceed directly to a passcode screen rather than waiting for the device to try to identify the user’s face. Apple Pay Express Transit also allows riders to pay without facial recognition on certain bus and subway lines.

Foye told Cook the MTA would be willing to help Apple spread the word on the modifications to ensure riders are aware of the options.

“There’s nothing more important to us than the health and safety of our customers,” Apple told the AP. “We are fully committed to continuing to work with the MTA to support their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The MTA has taken unprecedented steps to prevent the spread of the virus, which virologists say is a particular hazard in crowded, enclosed spaces.

For the first time on record, the subway has been shut down in the early hours of the morning for deep cleaning, and the MTA has also required all riders to wear masks. More than 90 percent of riders have complied with the mask requirement in recent weeks, according to the agency.

Tags Apple Coronavirus Metropolitan Transit Authority New York Tim Cook

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