Facial recognition to play key role in travel reopening as biometrics industry weighs social responsibility

Facial recognition to play key role in travel reopening as biometrics industry weighs social responsibility

The top biometrics and digital ID stories of the week on Biometric Update focus on the use of advanced technologies, primarily facial recognition, by the travel industry as it attempts to reopen from near-shutdown. The fallout from moves away from facial recognition by U.S. tech giants that may have more impact on public relations than the market itself is also prompting debate within the biometric industry, as privacy lawsuits and concerns are balanced by even more implementations.

The aviation industry is beginning what promises to be a lengthy and fraught path back to sustainability, which includes new deployments of facial recognition and temperature screening for passengers. A SITA executive told an Aviation Week webinar audience that the industry will have to invest in technology to make traveller journeys touchless as passengers return.

The importance of biometrics to the travel industry as it reopens is also examined this week in a piece by International Biometrics + Identity Association (IBIA) Executive Director Tovah LaDier, which contextualizes the debate between privacy advocates and travel industry stakeholders over the use of facial recognition. Thales sees the technology being more broadly deployed to support rail travel. In an interview with Homeland Security Today, LaDier pans the public announcements by U.S. tech giants that she says seem to conflate facial recognition with surveillance. LaDier points out to the publication that IBM, Amazon, and Microsoft have “little presence” in facial recognition, as shown by two of them not having performed the precondition for federal public contracts of submitting their algorithms for evaluation by NIST.

Onfido is being targeted by a suit under Illinois’ biometric data privacy law, with a plaintiff alleging the same lack of informed consent compliance that most other suits of its kind charge. Some technology vendors have recently had charges dismissed due to lack of presence or sales efforts in the state, and the liability of biometrics providers is not clear.

A pair of companies are upping the biometrics capabilities of the Apple ecosystem by adding facial recognition app access and message unlocking to Facebook Messenger for iOS, and a free facial recognition blocking camera app to the App Store.

The Vodaphone Institute for Society and Communications prints an interview with former Accenture Research Principal Director and Palantir Strategist and current technology ethics researcher Stephanie Hare about the impact of emerging technologies, including AI and biometrics, on society. Hare calls for a broad moratorium on facial recognition, and recommends scientists and technologists avail themselves of the insights gleaned from the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS).

A pair of researchers with the Rand Corporation write in an opinion piece for The Hill that bans will not address the imbalance of power between citizens and law enforcement, and that effective accountability mechanisms should be prioritized.

Trueface CEO Shaun Moore, whose company was one of the few facial recognition providers to respond to a request for comment from Vice on the use of the technology by police, explains in a Medium post the commitment Trueface is making to minimize the potential for harm with face biometrics. That includes closing the gap on demographic disparities, supporting calls for federal regulation, and what looks like a broad outreach campaign.

The ‘Roadmap for Digital Cooperation’ from the UN sets out how the body plans to carry out the recommendations from a previous report, which includes supporting ‘good’ digital identity and establishing the frameworks and tools necessary to mitigate the serious threats it says could be posed by facial recognition and other surveillance technologies. Deepfakes are also identified as a potentially major problem.

A challenge to address the prospect of deepfakes shows that current technology can catch the majority of them, as ID R&D executives explain to Biometric Update. Several entries from the company’s researchers placed on the challenge leader board, which they attribute in part to the insights gained developing ID R&D’s passive facial liveness detection.

Sovereignty over identity is the endpoint for online security foreseen in an interview of Martin Hellman, Taher Elgamal, and Tom Jermoluk by IEEE Spectrum. The prominent online cryptography innovators talk about the evolution of internet security from the early days, when open digital doors were a feature of what was in essence a vast research tool, through the development of public-key cryptography and devices with now secure enclaves that can store private keys on user devices.

Projects to use biometrics to update the voter roll in Côte d’Ivoire and cut out fraud from government payrolls in Zimbabwe and Liberia led digital ID news from Africa this week. ID4Africa has also kicked off a webinar series with a pair of enthusiastically-received panel discussions. A new impetus for action to provide useful digital identity to all people has been observed by leaders in the identity field with international development agencies brought together for the second event in the series. Governments that have made paid lip service to universal identification have seen those that did the hard work more effectively distribute aid and communicate with their citizens during the global health crisis.

Simprints Head of Strategic Partnerships Christine Kim writes about the company’s new contactless version of its biometric solution, developed with Cisco, for the tech giant’s blog. The touchless version has now been tested in low-resource environments in Kenya and Tanzania, and is being prepared for deployment in COVID-19 patient tracking.

Biometric systems need to be carefully architected, and possibly should be subject to evaluation against more standards to avoid possible harms to privacy and inclusion, according to a discussion during a Women in Identity webinar. Expert panelists debated the meaning of tech giants withdrawing from the facial recognition space and how to think about facial biometric relative to other modalities.

The failures of AI systems put to the test during the pandemic, combined with the likelihood of increasing reliance on the technology in more and more applications, is worrying to EqualAI President and CEO Miriam Vogel, as she writes for Thrive Global. Vogel suggests the use of AI in medical and employment decisions, as well as in facial recognition, could further entrench past and present biases.

Poor digital identity infrastructure hampered a range of government COVID-19 responses in Canada, experts said during the Identity North conference, as reported by IT World Canada. Politicians have finally recognized the need for this element of digital transformation, though the Digital ID and Authentication Council of Canada (DIACC) does not seem to think widespread implementation is about to happen.

Infinity Optics continues to make its case for biometric hashing technology as the way to provide strong authentication without creating privacy risks, with an independent test by Horangi Cyber Security confirming that reversable biometric data is not found in the code that is the outcome of its process. Fingerprint Cards Principal Scientist Mikkel B. Stegmann, on the other hand, argues that layering multiple modalities together is the next step for further enhancing the security of biometric authentication.

A successful fundraising round for Vuzix and the first of what is expected to be several government contract wins for Datasonic are accompanied by several statements from publicly traded companies showing widespread positive sentiment within the industry. The board of Idex Biometrics is taking shares instead of cash, Synaptics has joined a voice interoperability project led by Amazon, and Ipsidy’s CEO sees an inflection point ahead for the company with transactions moving online.

Several companies have revealed new technologies to embed facial recognition, gesture recognition, and voice and speech recognition into automobile interiors. Analysts see major growth in biometrics for vehicle access and other applications, and with vehicles becoming more connected and possibly more autonomous, in-vehicle authentications are expected to emerge and rise sharply.

Healthcare is another application area with explosive growth prospects, as health data attracts attackers and digital health services are adopted, ID R&D VP of Marketing Kim Martin writes in a guest post. Touchless biometrics like voice and face recognition technology are ready to replace passwords, ease check-ins, and protect controlled substances.

The role of voice biometrics in the altered context of the pandemic to enable and secure interactions between companies and their customers is explored by Phonexia CEO Michal Hrabi in another guest post.

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