Device-based biometrics for immunity passports in the dock, while payment card market revs

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Immunity passports are a hot topic in the global identity industry this week, and fingerprints, both in terms of payment cards and the safety of common systems, was a subject of major interest in the biometrics community. Our interview with one of the top biometrics testing experts in the world and ongoing coverage of efforts to enable remote trust and public safety also generated broad interest.

In our top story of the week, the importance of getting the details of any immunity certificate system right is expounded in a report by ID2020 ED Dakota Gruener, who says biometrics could be used for security so long as they stay on the user’s device to keep the sensitive data private. The UK’s announcement of pitches from several leading providers of biometrics-backed digital ID for its immunity passports program was also among our most widely read articles. The government has yet to commit to implementing any of the proposals, however, and immunity testing is reported to not yet be at the minimum levels of accuracy and availability that would be required.

A pair of major developments in the fingerprint payment card space are the subject of the next-most read story of the week, with Idemia taking a Frost & Sullivan 2019 Best Practices Award for its innovation, particularly around biometric smart cards. Idex Biometrics announced the SE partner for the card with its technology that recently achieved UnionPay certification. The two biometrics companies already partnered with each other.

U.S. government agencies have been working to carry out responsible due diligence about differences in demographic performance – often referred to as “bias” – in biometric systems, NIST Biometric Standards and Testing Lead Patrick Grother tells Biometric Update in an interview. One of the industry’s most-respected leaders spoke to us about the background of the agency’s bias report, and its plans for future testing.

Verdict has an interview this week with Lenovo Distinguished Engineer and FIDO Alliance Founding Board Director Joe Pennisi, who discusses the maturity of the FIDO project, and provides a primer. Pennisi also talks about growing awareness of the specification and the importance of privacy. Daltrey Co-founder and Managing Director Blair Crawford writes in a Biometric Update guest post about the value of zero trust approaches, and how the right architecture is needed to truly leverage biometrics for security in workplace access control.

An AI surveillance project has been suspended by Utah after the state learned about the extremist history of the CEO of its contractor Banjo, which includes a drive-by shooting, Engadget reports. Banjo briefly held a contract for anomaly detection for data from the city’s public cameras and other systems.

The difficulties of carrying out biometric voter registrations is becoming an issue for democracies in Africa. The launch of Côte d’Ivoire’s national biometric system has run into terrible luck with its timing, leading to low registration rates. The coming months will be a big test for the system, which had hoped to sign up 6.5 million people by October.

NEC has developed a quarantine compliance app in collaboration with developers in New Zealand. The app uses facial recognition to confirm the identity of users providing updates of their health and location.

How countries that have not digitally transformed their government services, including the U.S., can carry out their pandemic responses effectively is examined by Everest CEO and Co-founder Bob Reid in a Nasdaq guest contribution. A biometric onboarding process for an eGov account, followed by a deposit into an eWallet is recommended.

Estonia’s digital transformation, which takes in digital ID, virtually all government services, and more, gets an extensive treatment from Forbes in a fascinating article on how the small country’s advanced IT infrastructure and tech-friendly approach have given it tools for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic that most of the world would envy, if it only knew.

Very few systems seem to work out so well.

The Guardian app, which uses face or voice recognition for parole enforcement, is accused of being “faulty to the point of being unusable” by parolees who have recently used it, according to Gizmodo. The publication also spoke to experts who warn that the app’s code is sloppy, and advocates who argue that it is part of a trend towards commoditization of people’s data. Shannon Wu of Bloom explains in a Forbes Council post why she believes new frameworks that protect privacy and data from state and private overreach are desperately needed. She issues a dire warning against delay, lest privacy be sacrificed to the panopticon when expanded surveillance powers are not rolled back after the lockdowns.

A trial in Connecticut of drone flights to collect biometric readings to prevent the spread of viral infection was abruptly canceled due to privacy concerns. The drone supplier, Draganfly, says facial recognition is not involved, but Westport law enforcement officials changed course in response to public concerns.

In another examination of possible hasty reactions, Suprema Chief Research Officer Brian Song looks at the safety of contact fingerprint systems in the shadow of the pandemic in a popular Biometric Update guest post. Transmission of the novel coronavirus through shared surfaces is certainly possible, but the likelihood of catching it from a properly maintained scanner are far less certain.

The government of Telangana is considering facial and voice biometrics among options to replace contact-based fingerprint scanning for employee time and attendance according to an interview in The Economic Times with State IT Secretary Jayesh Ranjan. The possibility of sanitizing existing contact-based systems while procuring and alternative, and the broader implications for delivery of services through Aadhaar are discussed.

Pindrop CEO Vijay Balasubramanian says in a feature interview this week that most of the increased demand in remote authentication through the voice channel during lockdowns is being served by IVRs or not at all, as call centers struggle to bring remote workforces online and stay ahead of changing fraud scripts. End users are adopting voice recognition though, and customers are noticing efficiency gains.

Temperature screening capabilities are the new black for biometric systems being launched, and Telpo, Meridian, Pangea, everis and a pair of Brazilian startups have developed or upgraded technologies to help companies maintain public safety or secure access with facial recognition and fever detection.

Airports appear unlikely to return to anything like the traffic growth trajectory they were on, and that may be a good thing, with the aviation industry and officials wanting a little physical distance between themselves and travellers when they conduct identity checks. What that means for the biometric systems already in place at airports around the world remains to be seen.

The use of biometrics to defend an eCommerce sector facing more attacks than ever is examined in a PYMNTS article this week. The importance of basic security measures, without which biometrics are of limited value, if any, is emphasized.

Trueface Head of Growth Mason Allen writes in a Medium post about the importance of spoof detection, and the company’s focus on it pre-pandemic. From there, he argues that in a new context of germaphobia motivating contactless authentication and mask-wearing, computer vision will take on increased importance.

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