European Biometrics Association launches new strategic plan to build on early success

The European Biometrics Association (EAB) is launching a new strategic plan at its annual Research Projects Conference to continue its evolution as the region’s leading association for driving innovative biometric technology and responsible biometric policy.

The plan, which is titled “Four Strategic Challenges,” focuses on the main identity-related challenges currently facing Europe. The four challenges identified by the plan are: identity and migration, online identity, privacy, and inclusion. The association will address the challenges within the scope of its research and knowledge-sharing initiatives while retaining a neutral, non-partisan, non-profit approach.

The issue of identity and migration includes birth registration, the acceptance of IDs across national borders, and their use for services. The board of the EAB includes Rasa Karbauskaite, who is Senior Research Officer and manager of the Future of Border Checks project for EU border agency Frontex. The issue of online identity takes in the challenges of what EAB Chief Executive Officer Michiel van der Veen calls “the missing identity layer,” and the currently fragmented market landscape. There are a number of types of online identity, and it is not clear what roles the market and governments will play in deciding among them, let alone which or what combination will become dominant. Privacy issues are evolving rapidly as GDPR comes into effect, but uncertainty about responsibilities and enforcement, as well as the role of approaches like Privacy by Design, will be examined by the EAB. The need for identity systems to be fully inclusive, and to avoid the risk of excluding people when incorporating digital identity as a means of accessing services, is the fourth cornerstone of the new EAB strategy.

The strategic plan builds on the momentum the EAB generated under the stewardship of late Co-founder and Secretary Max Snijder, van der Veen told Biometric Update in an exclusive interview. Van der Veen praises Snijder’s efforts not just in starting the EAB, but in growing its membership and establishing its role as the region’s leading independent forum for biometrics. The next steps for the organization involve refining its mandate to engage with European stakeholders on practical issues of regional importance, van der Veen says, in a way that would have been much less relevant, if possible at all, when the EAB was founded.

“It’s all about much stronger focus on Europe. It is geographically bound, although identity doesn’t stop at the border so of course we will talk to other regions,” he notes. “We really plan to drive the agenda for Europe and take a leading position in the identity domain, to promote innovation, and to be in a sense independent of other regions.”

The shift was already underway when van der Veen took his new role in June, and through a series of consultations and conversations, the new strategic plan was formulated. In the process of carrying out that plan, EAB events serve as a means of achieving the organization’s goals.

“It’s very tempting to run a kind of dating agency as I call it,” van der Veen explains. “You organize events and you invite one stakeholder and another stakeholder to bring them together.”

Instead, van der Veen says the EAB will leverage the expertise of its membership, which includes professors, researchers, and other subject matter experts to take a substance-based approach to events. The EAB Research Projects Conference, which is taking place in Darmstadt, Germany, September 24 to 25, will also focus on the research projects which the organization is supporting. Currently the EAB is involved in 18 research projects, supported by roughly EUR 70 million (US$82.4 million) in funding, of which van der Veen says about 93 percent comes from the European Union.

“These are projects run by a combination of academia and industry,” he explains. “They come together, funded by the European Commission to work on a topic which is relevant for Europe. What we have done here is bundled all the identity related topics, and work with the EAB to disseminate the results, and inform the public on their status, and to involve stakeholders from the government, from industry, and from academia to learn what’s happening. They will use the event to bring together stakeholders and inform the ID community of what’s happening in Europe in terms of innovation.”

The research projects are intended to advance innovation in biometric technology, but should also help the EAB and the broader European community to address the four strategic challenges identified by the EAB.

“The problems that are out there are so strategic that its in our interest to invest in those,” van der Veen comments. “For the EAB, we will work with the European Commission to bring all those results to the public.”

The EAB will attempt to increase its engagement with Eastern Europe, van der Veen says, and he draws inspiration from the geographical coverage, as well as the explosive growth of ID4Africa.

“If we can reach that level of footprint in Europe in a couple of years, then I think we are in the right track,” he says. “We can make sure that we roll out identity systems across Europe which are secure, which are private, which give benefits to the citizens. It is ultimately for the greater good of European citizens.”

There are more than 200 attendees from 25 different countries confirmed as registered shortly before the opening of the EAB Research Projects Conference 2018.

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