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Government action, facial biometrics and industry responsibility top identity news of the week

Categories Biometrics News  |  Trade Notes


Numerous announcements were made this week of biometric deployments and implementations, for airports, retail security, and national digital ID programs. Questions about the details of what form identity solutions should take, how they should be developed and how they can help solve some of society’s difficult challenges, however, were behind many of the week’s top headlines.

Goode Intelligence’s list of the ten most influential organizations in digital identity remained one of our top stories this week. One of those organizations is Women in Identity, which is led by Emma Lindley, who tells Biometric Update that common attitudes and unconscious bias within the industry have resulted in product design and development deficiencies. If the industry is to realize its potential, in the sense of both revenue and improving people’s lives, industry approaches must change, Lindley says.

The government of Myanmar, currently facing allegations of genocide before the International Court of Justice, is planning to build a national biometric database by introducing mandatory collection of thumbprints and biographic data of any person purchasing a SIM card. Any company that bids on a contract with a government in the middle of such a process immediately runs afoul of a whole range of corporate responsibility and best ethical practice standards, and may put the reputation of its partners in jeopardy as well.

Controversy around facial recognition is bound to continue, with surveillance cameras expected to reach a billion within the next two years, and deployments of facial biometrics in half a dozen countries alternately inspiring praise and drawing scrutiny. With that in mind, if a company like Megvii has so much trouble launching an IPO, Caixing Global considers what chance other AI startups have.

Four more airports around the world have rolled out biometric systems, including a new wait time estimation service based on facial recognition, but researchers with Kneron have been able to defeat Schiphol’s biometric boarding system, as well as several biometric payment systems. Ambivalence about the growth of airport biometrics is also shown in an article updating Delhi’s rollout of Digi Yatra, and also questioning the program’s benefit. The waiting time system is provided by NEC, the American arm of which also recently announced the launch of its Federal Customer Experience Center in Arlington, Virginia, to show off its technologies for border control, defense and intelligence, in addition to transportation.

U.S. Congress is taking action on deepfakes, passing the Identifying Outputs of Generative Adversarial Networks Act, raising speculation about whether the Senate will follow. The Bill tasks the National Science Foundation with a leadership role in the effort but also includes key roles for NIST, DARPA, and other agencies. In a guest post for Biometric Update, Thycotic Head of Global Strategic Alliances Joseph Carson writes that beyond the threat of fake news and misinformation that Congress is primarily focused on, identity theft is another possible application of this nefarious technology. Carson is also interviewed by AiThority this week, in which he discusses the company’s focus on privileged access management, why he believes AI cannot completely fill the skills gap, and the need for companies to get the basics right before they embark on journeys with “new-age technologies.”

Onfido CEO and co-founder Husayn Kassai meanwhile writes about the dilemma of online anonymity and harmful content such as misinformation or hate speech for Forbes, recommending identity verification over IP address sharing to unmask and stop extreme instances of abuse.

The government of Ukraine has begun working on a national digital ID system, while the government of Malaysia has revealed details of its national biometric digital identity system, including the use of open source technologies, and intentions to use the system to provide many government services from end-to-end online by the end of next year.

Businesses are not prioritizing digital identity, and accordingly many are struggling with legacy systems, according to a survey from Deloitte. IDaaS could be the most realistic way for these companies to achieve digital transformation and cope with evolving data privacy regulations.

“Digital Identity is Dead.” Long live digital identity? The provocative statement comes from a blog by Constellation Research VP and Principal Analyst Steve Wilson, who explains in an interview with Diginomica that he means the promise of a secure, portable identity across all walks of life as envisioned over a decade ago has not been realized. He is more bullish on the prospects for biometrics, however, based on “the plumbing;” the protocols and standards, of which FIDO is one he mentions.

From the FIDO Alliance Korea Working Group comes an interview with the three winners of the hackathon the group began back in April and their mentors. Kieun Shin of LINE, who mentored one of the winners, says the event’s purpose of learning creative ideas and approaches to deployment was achieved, with the bonus of identifying potential partners and highly skilled engineers. FIDO products are expected from a CrossCert and TEEware partnership in the near future.

BrainChip and Tata Consulting have developed hand gesture recognition using a Dynamic Vision Sensor and Akida Neuromorphic SoC technology, which they say requires less power and data than a traditional neural network. The technology is currently being showcased at NeurIPS 2019 in Vancouver.

Rounding out our top stories for the week, a pan-continental perspective on digital ID schemes in Africa has been expressed from a couple of different stakeholder groups, while programs at the country level are report to deliver benefits, but also face backlash and fraudulent registrations. BIO-key Africa Managing Director Dr. Maduawuchi “Steve” Uwazie also spoke to Biometric Update over email about the company’s strategy for the region.

Nations with developing economies, particularly in Asia and Latin America, represent an enormous opportunity of financial inclusion to generate wealth, as Oxford Economics claims establishing financial identities for the unbanked worldwide would add an extra $250 billion to the global GDP each year, the equivalent of a country the size of Vietnam. “Financial Identity as a Service” is considered in the report for Juvo as a potential way to unlock this potential using mobile phones.

Biometrics and fintech consultant Steve Cook takes a comparative look at active and passive liveness checks for Finextra. Cook lays some of the blame for a steep increase in abandoned applications on increasing friction and longer processes for customers, and says the lack of indications to hackers about the process is an important strength of passive liveness.

Microsoft and Amazon have pledged support for the Pentagon, saying that it is the job of executives in the tech industry to work with the military regardless of employee dissent, The Washington Post reports. Both Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Microsoft President Brad Smith have expressed support for supplying federal agencies and law enforcement with technology in the past. Microsoft was also recently chosen over Amazon to supply a major new cloud computing infrastructure project, following intervention by President Trump, causing Amazon to file suit.

Let us know in the comments below or through the usual channels if there is a story, blog post, podcast or cartoon that we should share with the biometrics and digital identity community.

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