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Government support and regulation drives market optimism this week in biometrics and digital ID news


Vision-Box biometric boarding facial recognition JFK Terminal One

Government action, and in particular industry benefit from or support for new government regulation was a surprising theme in the week’s most widely-read news on Biometric Update. The FBI called for biometrics adoption, CCPA could drive companies to replace passwords, and Amazon acknowledged the need for regulation, among other related developments. Between that theme, updates on the progress of biometric payment cards, and new research, the week contained a high degree of optimism about the industry’s near-term prospects.

Biometric payment cards have now reached the mass market tipping point, according to a report from Idex Biometrics that was our top new story of the week. Partnerships that take the technology into mass production and drive down unit costs are the next step, the report says. IDEX CEO Stan Swearingen also recently contributed a broad review of the state of the biometrics adoption, across the industry and around the world, to Verdict, suggesting the industry needs to educate manufacturers and consumers on the security issues it raises to allow the technology’s market to thrive.

Zwipe, in another of our top stories, has prototyped an ASIC which combines contactless power harvesting and management, which could lower costs and improve power efficiency for biometric payment cards, wearables, and other devices.

OneSpan Senior Product Marketing Manager Sam Bakken argues in a widely-read guest post that continuous behavioral biometrics are the best way to turn the tide of fraud in the financial system while still meeting the digital experience expectations of consumers.

The FBI meanwhile is urging businesses to upgrade to biometrics from multi-factor authentication, which is now being targeted by cyber criminals. Whatever track record for security multi-factor has established so far may be due to how infrequently it is used.

Research was another popular theme this week. The U.S. Air Force is researching what seems to be some sort of molecular biometric. The goal of the Human Signatures Program is to bring intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for humans closer to those for vehicles. DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has produced a series of pages it calls “S&T Impact.” Each page includes a roughly 90-second video, a brief description and some links providing information on the research body’s role in the department’s operations for border control, incident response, disaster resilience, and cybersecurity.

Research from the Idiap Institute pitting biometrics against deepfakes suggests facial recognition systems can be defeated with striking consistency by high-quality fakes made with GANs.

The latest tech giant to take up the call for federal regulation of facial recognition is Amazon, which offers up a somewhat nuanced take as part of its 11 newly-declared positions on social issues. The current state of city-level facial recognition regulation, including possible action by New York City and Portland, Oregon, is considered by Wired. The article begins by describing a residential access control system that seems to work imperfectly.

Regulation often has unintended consequences, and ImageWare CTO David Harding explains to Biometric Update this week how the mass adoption of biometrics to secure account access could be one from CCPA.

In an interview with the BBC, Google SVP of Hardware Rick Osterloh says he warns guests at his home about the smart devices that could record them there, and addresses controversies around facial recognition including the recently reported practices of contractors seeking facial biometric data to train the company’s algorithms.

Indeed, there continues to be a stream of concern about and criticism of biometrics, especially facial recognition.

An opinion piece for the New York Times, argues that the tech industry is not an evolutionary force, and that the nature of progress ought to be reconsidered. The article suggests that surveillance is not inevitable, privacy does not necessarily have to be traded off, and cites Angela Chen’s piece in M.I.T. Technology Review on how to push for facial recognition bans at the municipal level. Another, also part of The Times “The Privacy Project,” argues in favor of an all-out ban on facial recognition technology in the U.S. for both the government and the private sector. The authors write off “notice and choice” as a failure, and rebut three common arguments for light or no regulation of facial biometrics. The argument does not refer, and may not apply to biometric selfies for identity verification as in mobile account onboarding applications or on-device implementations.

Failed Aadhaar authentication, meanwhile, continues to be used to deny people aid, according to The Guardian, despite government assurances that alternative methods must be applied in those cases to prevent the very kind of human tragedies described in the report.

A piece contributed to Benzinga by Jumio says the age verification practices of the budding cannabis industry will likely not meet regulatory standards now or in the future, and could even put legalization at risk. The UK government’s plans to enforce age checks on pornography websites has been scrapped, New Scientist reports, after complaints by privacy advocates. The government will focus on its broader online harm reduction strategy instead.

Several West African countries made decisions on biometric ID programs, as UNECA called on African nations to work faster towards identification goals through innovation.

An article on East Asia Forum details China’s efforts to promote the technology for programs like its social credit system, which have found customers in Venezuela, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Malaysia, and Brazil.

Self-sovereign identity (SSI) was back in the top news stories this week as well, with a Mercator report declaring the approach a potential way for financial institutions to monetize their authentication processes and data.

Let us know in the comments below, through social media or email if there is a story the biometrics and digital ID communities need to know about.

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