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Joshua Tucker

Lock Screen Features Are Treacherous Ground: Part 1

Over the last two years, as I’ve continued to grow and learn more about design, my diligence to truly evaluate the features people have suggested for iOS and my own projects has increased. I often found myself indulging in something based on the “how cool would it be factor” instead of taking the view from the sky and deciding the validity of the idea based on the important fundamentals: security, usability, functionality, etc.

Although I have much to learn and understand, I am confident in writing my point of view on the iOS lock screen and what should and should not be accessible from it. Many times has this topic come up in discussions online and offline, but I have yet to find a solid source that elaborated on the specifics. This is my goal with these “series” of posts. I am breaking up the discussion in bite-size chunks as to not overload people, including myself. I can’t discuss everything on each topic in a post either, so I’ve opened up a way to discuss more dynamically (see Branch).

The main question of this discussion will be:

"What should and should not be accessible from the lock screen and why?"

Part 1 will focus on the issue of security.

Security:

The security of the user and his or her information on device is extremely important. Regardless of whether a passcode is set, what can be viewed or done directly from the lock screen should be an issue of great concern. As a point of critique, I will use a common feature that jailbreaker’s love; quick send.

At the core of lock screen security, I believe it’s extremely vital that a user shouldn’t be able to perform any action that requires or allows someone to search Contacts. This is why quick send from the lock screen is a fundamental security flaw. Someone can start a new message and search through all your contacts, viewing data such as phone number or email address. But one might argue “Siri allows you to call, text, etc. from the lock screen, so quick send is no different.” This is not true, and here’s why. With Siri, you have to be deliberate when you perform any of those actions. Siri awaits a direct input such as “Call X” with X equaling a value which is extremely specific. You can’t search through all your contacts via Siri, whereas with quick send, I can start by typing the letter “a” and go down the alphabet, viewing every contact and their information. That’s a big problem. One might follow up with an argument “What if you prompt the user for a passcode (if set) or require the user to have a passcode on to use this feature?” If this is a question you may have, stay tuned as I will discuss why this wouldn’t work either.

To conclude this section, if any application, tweak, or concept potentially allows a user to search through Contacts, or any data that is considered private, then there’s a fundamental security issue at hand. This is why Apple will never implement a feature such as quick send unless they are able to ensure protection of a user’s private data.

I encourage you to jump in and post your thoughts. Hit up my thread on Branch to get involved.

© 2012 Joshua Tucker