Ledger now allows you to recover wallets with facial recognition, despite criticism

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Key facts:
  • Ledger Recover is a service to recover private keys with a personal ID.
  • Months ago, the idea was harshly criticized for going against user privacy.

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Hardware wallet manufacturer Ledger offers its users a new way to secure their private keys using their personal identification and facial recognition. Ledger Recover, a service that offers this possibility, was launched after being postponed in May in the face of a wave of criticism from the bitcoin community.

Ledger’s publication explains that Recover is an additional security layer to the seed phrase, a set of 12 or 24 words that allows you to recover access to funds from a damaged or lost wallet. To do this, the user must upload a photograph of their personal identification and register their facial recognition. With this data, you can request the restoration of your private keys if necessary.

In this way, the project developers aim to facilitate the recovery of funds from a wallet even in the event of the eventual loss of the seed phrase. “You are the key to your wallet,” says one of the slogans in the product presentation video.

How Ledger Recover works

With Ledger Recover, a wallet’s recovery phrase is encrypted and stored in escrow services offered by “three independent companies” separately. When collected, this information can only be decrypted using the personal data provided by the user, who must present proof of facial recognition on a device associated with the Ledger Live application, which is used as the interface for Ledger hardware wallets.

Ledger Recover is an optional service that the hardware wallet manufacturer provides in association with Coincover, a British firm specializing in blockchain security solutions. Subscription to Recover is not automatic; The user must pay a subscription of 10 euros per month and approve the creation of their backup in their Ledger Nano X wallet to be able to use it.

At the moment, Ledger Recover is only available for the Nano X wallet model, although its use will soon be enabled on other Ledger devices, the company reports. With this new proposal for its users, Ledger attempts to “reduce the barriers to entry to self-custody” to promote the widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies.

People have had real experiences and concerns about the safety of the secret recovery phrase. These concerns are also reasons why some people choose a less secure, but more “convenient” option, such as keeping their cryptocurrencies on an exchange.Ledger, on the social network

The great controversy around Ledger Recover

In May 2023, when the Ledger Recover project became public, the company received strong criticism and was forced to postpone the launch of the service. As Market Times reported, the bitcoiner community did not welcome the introduction of a trusted third party between them and the private keys of their Ledger wallets. The company responded to these concerns by publishing the Ledger Recover code for anyone to view and audit.

That idea goes against the principles of decentralization and privacy that drove the creation of cryptocurrency, they argue. They had a favorable precedent, given that Ledger suffered a leak of its users’ data in 2020 that even cost it lawsuits against it.

Without going any further, a former Ledger member admitted the mistake the company had made five months ago. Éric Larchevêque, co-founder and former CEO of Ledger, assured – not on behalf of the company – that Recover “was presented in the worst possible way.” He stressed, however, that the wallets were still secure and that nothing had changed in their operation.

At the end of October 2023, the Ledger Recover novel appears to be coming to an end. The service will not be mandatory for users, which could help calm the concerns of those who do not trust its supposed advantages. «If you do not want to use the service, don’t worry, it will always be 100% optional (…) you can continue using your Ledger as before; nothing will change,” wrote Charles Guillemet, CTO of Ledger, in X.