Biometric projects involving credit card companies, retail and tech giants made up several of the week’s top headlines in the digital identity ecosystem, with Mastercard, Visa, Thales, Amazon, and Carrefour all pursuing biometrics adoption in various ways. Government projects in several African nations and around the world, as well as at multiple DHS agencies, also drew readers’ interest.
Our top story of the week is a confirmation of details from Mastercard’s certification of a Thales Group biometric payment card with Fingerprint Cards technology by Thales’ Frederic Martinez. The certification represents one of the final steps for payment cards with fingerprint biometrics on their way to mass commercialization. Thales’ synergies from the Gemalto deal, meanwhile are starting to show, with Gemalto’s FPGA tech being used to improve the efficiency of its Biometric Matching System, allowing it to significantly reduce the number of servers it needs, according to the announcement.
Amazon appears to be working on palm biometrics, either print or vein recognition, for retail payments at terminals in its Amazon Go or Whole Foods stores. Visa has partnered with Amazon for testing, and other major payments companies including Mastercard are rumored to be interested.
A plan to pilot using fingerprints for payments has gotten French supermarket chain Carrefour into trouble with Belgium’s Data Protection Authority, which says that explicit permission from consumers is needed to collect their biometrics which is “more than just a signature on a paper.”
GenKey has begun upgrading Niger’s management systems for civil servants, student grants, and pensions with biometrics, leading news from Africa which was again among the most read stories of the week. Securiport’s work in Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea, and opposite problems for biometric systems in Nigeria and Tanzania were also among top stories from the continent.
National biometric projects have also advanced significantly in other countries, as Jamaica and Bangladesh are implementing new biometric passports, while ID cards in Fiji will be linked to facial biometrics, and Romania’s new ID cards will feature facial images and fingerprints.
The UK government is planning an Electronic Travel Authorization system similar to that used in the U.S. and Canada, with biometrics used as a primary means of identification for border control processes. The new border policy is based on government promises to keep criminals and unwanted individuals from entering as easily as they have previously from the EU.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) has had a 6 percent increase in its budget approved, including support for its IDENT and HART databases, for 2020. HART is expected to become operational during the coming year. DHS is also planning to expand its Global Entry program with facial recognition to airports across the country for expedited security processing. A privacy impact assessment indicates the agency will continue to transition the program from fingerprints to facial recognition as it grows.
A non-profit advocacy organization and legal services provider called the “Surveillance Technology Oversight Project” (STOP) was launched in New York City in 2019 to provide grassroots engagement with local officials’ increasing use of biometrics and other surveillance technologies in the area, The Architect’s Newspaper reports. Lawyer, technologist, and interfaith activist Albert Cahn, who founded the organization, spoke to AN about the prominence such technologies have already attained in urban security systems, and the huge, largely unreported anti-terrorism surveillance network in place in the city.
“The problem comes in when it’s embedded in our infrastructure without the proper safeguards,” according to Cahn.
The story of a Saudi leader allegedly hacking the phone of Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is detailed in a Cnet video, which makes clear the link to NSO Group, which has appeared in Biometric Update coverage for its failed merger talks with Verint, among other stories. The take-away is that state-sponsored spyware is powerful enough to hack through encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp.
Biometric privacy lawsuits issuing from Illinois continue, with the latest twist the Supreme Court’s rejection of Facebook’s request to intervene in its class-action suit. Challenging the legal standing of actions based on procedural violations without establishing “real-world harm” in federal court was one of the social media giant’s last possible avenues to avoid a trial.
In another privacy case which could potentially be even more explosive, Clearview AI is accused of scraping billions of images from public websites and selling them, or technology based on them, to hundreds of law enforcement agencies. This story is ongoing, and may be back in our top news before long.
The journal Biometric Technology Today has published a feature article on the future of biometrics for law enforcement around the world, examining the tension between privacy and civil liberties concerns and the cost pressures facing police everywhere. Clearly transparent policies can help diminish public privacy worries, according to article author Jason Tooley, chief revenue officer at Veridium, who notes that a lack of transparency seems to have already had a negative impact on public perceptions of deployments by UK police. The legal considerations for use of automated face recognition in evidence and for triggering police action are examined in a paper by two academics from the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, in the specific context of AFR deployment by South Wales Police. The paper, available through SSRN, notes the need “to protect the position of the human with decision-making prerogative.”
The history of facial recognition technology, or at least a little-reported portion of it involving University of Texas at Austin researcher Woody Bledsoe, is examined by Wired. Bledsoe’s pioneering work in automated pattern recognition form a significant element in early facial recognition research, and was ultimately supported by front companies for the CIA, according to the article.
NEC’s Safer City Solutions Division Vice President of Public Safety Dr. Atsushi Iwata tells IATA’s Airlines that as the number of tourists visiting Japan has increased more than three-fold over the past five years, face recognition technology at Narita International Airport has showed how to accommodate further passenger growth. Dr. Iwata says NEC was chosen by Narita because of the security of its technology, as evidenced by its CBP partnership, and that the company is starting to see signs of cooperation across international borders.
The value of biometrics to individuals and organizations alike to make a wide range of activities and processes more secure and convenient is pitched in a blog post by BIO-key, which claims biometric authentication is now used in every industry and for multiple use cases. Barriers related to cost, complexity, and public acceptance have fallen away, according to the post.
Palm biometrics have yet to reach the public prominence of fingerprint and facial recognition technology, but a blog post from Keyo posits that palm vein recognition is more secure than other biometrics, with privacy and accuracy advantages, high reliability, and the hygiene benefits of touchless technologies. Abacus meanwhile reviews the technology’s current state, and interviews an academic researcher who agrees that the biometric does not have the same privacy concerns as facial recognition, and is harder to steal without active cooperation.
Experian VP of Industry Solutions of Global Fraud and Identity David Britton tells Biometric Update in a new interview that companies selecting an identity verification platform that enables them to flexibly layer technologies will position itself well to defeat fraud and win consumer trust.
DocuSign Financial Services Marketing Director Nisha Pattan writes for BAI.org, the publication of the Bank Administration Institute, that ID verification should be prioritized by financial institutions in the year ahead, as new technologies like facial recognition which enable a higher level of confidence, along with audit trails, collide with the rising cost of fraud and risk management. Key opportunities exist in new customer onboarding and account creation, mobile banking, and customer service to elevate digital experiences, according to the editorial.
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