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Biometrics2014: A Q&A with Biometrics Institute CEO Isabelle Moeller


Earlier this year the Biometrics Institute announced a partnership with Elsevier to deliver the Biometrics2014 Conference & Exhibition. Taking place in October 2014 in London, this year’s event boasts big names and a broad focus for the industry.

The industry group recently announced several new speakers for the conference lineup, including Samsung as a keynote presenter.

The Biometrics Institute also recently published the results of its 2014 Industry Survey, which this year found a significant rise in the use of biometrics in mobile devices as a major trend.

BiometricUpdate.com had a chance to discuss Biometrics2014 and the future of the industry with the Biometrics Institute’s CEO Isabelle Moeller. Moeller also serves as the conference chairperson for this year’s event.

What follows is a snapshot of that discussion.

Can you discuss the Biometrics Institute’s role, as well as your own role in organizing Biometrics 2014?

We decided to partner with Elsevier for the Biometrics 2014: the future of identity starts here! conference and exhibition which will be held in London from the 21-23 October 2014 as it combines two very strong brands who can service the industry in a unique way. It also gives us as the industry group a fantastic international platform to discuss the future of identity and the role biometrics can play in this space.


“We are thrilled that Samsung Electronics for the first time is appearing at a biometrics and identity related event. It just shows how unparalleled our outreach is.” — Isabelle Moeller

We are in charge of the programme development and have secured over 60 amazing speakers from around the world. We have created a very new format focusing on discussion and even an un-conference style session where delegates dictate and discuss the content. It is going to be a not-to-be missed event if you want to influence the future of identity.

The Biometrics Institute’s mission is to promote the responsible use of biometrics in an independent and impartial international membership organisation. This mission has not changed since our establishment in 2001, an amazing foresight by the founding directors and members. All the details can be found at www.biometricsinstitute.org.

We are providing an international forum for our over 155 members to share their experiences and best-practice in a user group, where the Board of Directors represents a majority of users such as Immigration New Zealand, Metropolitan Police UK and the FBI. Our membership also involves suppliers and academia bringing together all parts of the industry.

Privacy protection is a critical component in the responsible use and development of biometric technologies. As an industry body, we obviously want to see growth for the industry. We believe however that this growth is only going to be successful, if biometrics are implemented with due consideration to privacy. We have therefore issued the Biometrics Institute Privacy Guideline, a best-practice guide outlining 17 principles including for example the need for consultation with those affected by the technology, informed-consent and voluntary use as well as security of the biometric information.

Another area we focus on is biometric vulnerability assessments. We have formed an international Biometrics Vulnerability Assessment Expert Group (BVAEG) that exchanges knowledge and information on this very important but also sensitive topic and aims at raising awareness about its importance of vulnerability testing.

From the conference agenda it looks like there will be a wide representation from all sides of the biometrics space (pure-play, consumer, financial, government etc). I see Samsung, as well as other private companies and government agencies on the speaker list. In your eyes, is this indicative of the way the industry is moving?

Absolutely. The programme was developed in close consultation with our members and the incredible network of people we have around the world. It certainly reflects what the current status of the industry is.

This has also been confirmed by our recently released Industry Survey 2014 suggesting that the adoption/use of biometrics on mobile devices is seen as the most significant development in the biometrics world over the last 12 months and will remain to be in the near future.

We are thrilled that Samsung Electronics for the first time is appearing at a biometrics and identity related event. It just shows how unparalleled our outreach is.

The discussion on government identity management is continuing and some important lessons can be shared with the commercial sector in this field. The event also offers a whole track on biometrics in commercial sectors such as retail, banking and hospitality with Citi, Wells Fargo Bank and Mastercard. We are certainly seeing a growing interest for biometrics in the financial sector but there are some important issues that need to be addressed to make this happen. The conference will deliver this discussion.

The conference will then finish with the big privacy debate involving interviews and discussions with privacy experts but also privacy advocates. This will be followed by the vulnerability assessment session involving the Chaos Computer Club who are the ones who hacked the Apple iPhone 5. I don’t think we have seen an event to date that will have everyone who is involved in this industry together in the one place.

As CEO of the Biometrics Institute and the chair of Biometrics2014, you are in an interesting position to speculate on the future of the industry. Could you tell me what you think the biometrics space will look like in 5 years?

Well if I could, I probably would not be the Chief Executive of a not-for-profit organisation. Who would have thought 5 years ago that mobile devices would be this disruptive?

I have to base the assessment on what the industry thinks and our Industry Survey is a great tool for this. A 47 page report is available to our members and non-members can receive an executive summary by emailing me: Isabelle (at) biometricsinstitute (dot) org.

As outlined earlier, mobile is the hot topic. I personally think we are going to see biometrics evolve in many places where secure transactions are needed.

Biometric technologies are extremely valuable but must be deployed with security and privacy front of mind. The Biometrics Institute is taking an active role in promoting the responsible use of biometrics by bringing together the users, vendors, academics and privacy experts to facilitate this important mission.

Biometric authentication has the potential to ease the burden of security given its simplicity and usability. All security technologies have flaws, including PINs and passwords, and when subject to a determined attack none will guarantee absolute security. Most biometrics are not “secret” and should be used with a secure second factor. Security relies not only on one factor but on combining them, such as relying on a PIN and fingerprint.

There are a number of technologies, both software and hardware that can be used to detect such spoofing attacks.

When we provide a biometric or other sensitive personal data it does come down to a question of trust and control. Governments are typically required to put very robust trust models in place to ensure end-to-end security is provided, through for example government accredited networks, compliance processes for privacy and record keeping legislation, assurance mechanisms involving partnerships and processes around access to data.

Where some organisations are involved, that end-to-end security and assurance just might not exist – what happens with your face, your fingerprints in that environment is potentially riskier and requires far more than just a technology solution.

Another question is control and data retention. What happens to that biometric? Who looks after it, at what point in time is it destroyed? After a person leaves school or a particular job? What processes exist for managing any compromise of identity data, for re-establishing confidence in identity, for redress?

We have seen many successful implementations where biometrics have helped to transform identity management, privacy protection and identity security like electronic passports facilitating a better and more secure travel experience or large-scale identity management systems such as the Indian Unique Identity (UID) scheme which facilitates the delivery of government’s services to the poor and marginalised.

If we get the privacy and vulnerability issues addressed and create trust and control for the consumer, I think biometrics has a great future.

What kind of attendance — including delegates, exhibitors and speakers — are you expecting at Biometrics2014?

Our target is 200 delegates and I think with such a strong programme we should be able to achieve this.

The exhibition traditionally attracts 1200 visitors I believe and there are some interesting new things we offer on the exhibition floor that should draw in the crowds. We have a range of free seminars providing invaluable insights from the suppliers.

And for the first time we are holding a “Biometrics uncensored – a seminar for children” looking at informing and educating children on biometrics. The children will be encouraged to learn, to play with the technology, and to think about its role now and in the future.

It is only £500 for a Biometrics Institute member to register for the three day conference which is an incredible value when you look at the programme and at other commercial events.

The exhibition is obviously free and all the information can be found at www.biometrics2014.com.

What are some of the major themes you expect to come out of this year’s event?

The juicy themes, which are at the heart of the industry, include:

• The big privacy debate
• The importance of vulnerability assessments
• The new mobile paradigm
• Opportunities for commercial applications in retail, hospitality and banking including identity as the new money and for secure customer authentication
• Biometrics in government including borders & travel, law enforcement and in developing economies

The Biometrics Institute will continue these themes and any new ones that may emerge in the interactive conference at the many Biometrics Institute events it regularly organises around the world.

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