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Facial recognition datasets and controversies drive biometrics and digital ID news of the week

Facial recognition datasets and controversies drive biometrics and digital ID news of the week

Facial recognition and controversy around the technology were the theme common to most of the past week’s top stories on Biometric Update. After a few weeks of relative calm for facial biometrics, the biggest stories about court cases, regulation, and market growth were all focused on the same modality; and then there was Clearview AI.

Mastercard’s certification of fingerprint payment card technology remains our top story for the second week in a row, emphasizing the importance of payment card certification to the biometrics industry.

The deadline for biometric registration for SIM cards in Tanzania is looming, and the rush to avoid a widespread loss of network access is beset with confusion and complications, as explained in our wrap of identity news from around Africa.

Chinese surveillance technology companies were prominent at Intersec 2020, and Indian government agencies are enthusiastically adopting surveillance tech for identity recognition, supporting a forecast from Adroit Market Research that facial recognition will be a $12 billion industry by 2025.

Lawsuits related to facial recognition and the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) of Illinois generated a pair of the top stories of the week on Biometric Update, but each with a twist on the all-to-common stories of arguments about standing and breaches of informed consent rules. Clearview AI has managed to somehow further worsen public anxiety about biometrics and data privacy, and along with IBM has been slapped with a BIPA suit over image acquisition practices. Both companies scraped images from social media to train facial recognition, but IBM did so to address the demographic disparities found in most facial biometric algorithms, while Clearview seems not to have had such a laudable intention. The potential multi-billion dollar class action against Facebook, meanwhile, has been settled for $550 million, soon after losing a bid to have the Supreme Court hear an appeal. Stock in the social media fell in response, and the announcement was reported to be surprising to many, but the company plans to put the incident behind it.

The reaction of New Jersey’s Attorney General to the evolving Clearview scandal was also among the to widely-read stories of the week, as they barred law enforcement agencies in the state from working with the company, around the same time as Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey wrote the company to ask what U.S. law enforcement agencies are its customers.

Security expert Bruce Schneier writes in a well-reasoned New York Times opinion piece that ubiquitous mass surveillance is already upon us, and some privacy advocates are not fighting the data protection battle that really matters.

“These efforts are well intentioned, but facial recognition bans are the wrong way to fight against modern surveillance,” Schneier writes. “Focusing on one particular identification method misconstrues the nature of the surveillance society we’re in the process of building.”

Azeem Azhar writes for Exponential View about why tech companies are now calling for regulation of AI and facial recognition. He comes to a similar conclusion about facial recognition to Schneier, saying taking a popular stance on such an emotive issue may help it avoid tough questions.

The European Union has backed away from the idea of a ban on the use of facial recognition in public spaces, though the bloc’s Artificial Intelligence strategy is expected to mandate clear criteria for such uses of the technology. The ban the EU considered was never that likely, according to GlobalData Thematic Research Senior Analyst Laura Petrone, who writes for NS Tech that a moratorium was only ever one of several options on the table, and GDPR applies to facial recognition already.

As the EU was making its decision, the U.S. and China were urged to avoid “arms race logic” to keep AI, surveillance, and biometric from combining to create digital dictatorships and other disasters by the historian and philosopher Yuval Harari at Davos, as Axios reports.

Advances in augmented reality could breathe new life into the smart glasses wearable category, according to InCyberDefense.com, and the market has changed a lot since Google introduced its prototype in 2013.

The many companies offering facial biometrics for the less controversial applications around onboarding and remote authentication may be attempting a risky market strategy, according to a new white paper from Acuity. The face recognition market is ripe for disruption, Acuity says. Also this week, a deep dive into facial recognition by The California Sunday Magazine which begins with an account of the technology’s early days, and an explanation by Dr. Joseph Atick and NEC’s Benji Hutchinson of how it actually works. It continues with an attempt at a balanced account of where we are today.

The importance of layering other technologies, such as behavioral biometrics, on top of physical biometrics is explained by Experian VP of Industry Solutions for Global Fraud and Identity David Britton in a recent interview. Britton also explains the impact of the expansion of networks and data on the threat landscape, as well as opportunities to win consumer trust.

Veridium Chief Revenue Officer Jason Tooley writes in a well-read guest post that the role of biometrics in authentication is set to shift from a shortcut in a password-based system to providing a whole new level of security. The layering of other technologies with biometrics for robust solutions is also discussed by Tooley.

Persona CEO and Co-founder Rick Song discussed his company’s $17.5 million Series A funding round with Biometric Update by email this week, as it attempts to build the internet’s identity layer. As most of America takes in the Super Bowl, Valid Director of Identity Programs and Product Management Kevin Freiburger discusses the progress of biometric systems for fan convenience and security at arenas and large events in a guest post.

Australia’s new National Digital Identity system is coming online, but is hardly a guaranteed success, according to The Conversation. The public does not have a full understanding of digital ID, and the country chose a federated system significantly different from those adopted by Canada and Switzerland, which hew closer to self sovereign identity (SSI) principles. To help people better understand the data they should consider keeping private, University of Toronto Engineering News provides a primer on biometric data just in time for Data Privacy Day on January 28.

The next entry from Yoti’s Digital Identity Fellow Subhashish Panigrahi has been published by the company, with initial findings from 20 interviews with a range of people with different stakes in the success of the India’s Aadhaar program. The interviews suggest that the linguistic diversity of India and the risk associated with linking many databases are among challenges which might have been foreseen, but are still dogging the program.

ZenGo CEO Ouriel Ohayon has responded to a brief Twitter flame blast from a competing wallet’s chief executive, who questioned how facial recognition could be more secure than a 12-word phrase, with a blog post. The competitor attempted, Ohayon says unsuccessfully, to recover a wallet using pictures from Instagram to prove the system’s lack of security. The company invites people to test the technology, powered by FaceTec, for themselves.

Please let us know of any stories, articles, or other content you would like to share with the biometrics and digital identity communities through the comments below or the usual channels.

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