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Misunderstandings in biometrics targeted by EAB and EU regulator collaboration

Misunderstandings in biometrics targeted by EAB and EU regulator collaboration

Data protection regulators in Europe have been receptive to the European Association for Biometrics (EAB) as the organization addresses common misconceptions related to biometric technology, its CEO Jean Salomon told Biometric Update in an email.

The EAB composed ‘Misunderstandings in Misunderstanding on Biometrics’ in response to a paper from the Spanish Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD) which urged caution in biometrics deployments.

Salomon says regulators have been receptive to the report. The EAB forwarded copies to both the EU and Spanish data protection authorities before publishing it online. The response from the Spanish regulator underlined the different in the approach taken, and while its original technical note was unchanged online, the introduction to an internal record was updated to refine the paper’s scope and purpose, according to Salomon.

“In spite of the differences between the two articles in the extent of the analysis and technical details, there is a commonality of views recognized by both sides, where decision to operate and control the use of biometrics, especially in public space, must be understood by all decision-making stakeholders in unison,” explains Salomon. “The ultimate goal is to always integrate the appropriate Privacy Impact Assessment steps to protect fundamental Identity rights of the EU citizens.

“The common conclusion of these parallel papers is backed up by the EU EDPS direct correspondence reply, which endorsed EAB’s proposal to work together to develop future common reports and practical tools: it is crucial to duly inform the public about fast evolving opportunities, challenges and limits of the use of biometrics in our societies.”

The dialogue comes against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which Salomon points out affected everyone’s ability to use their senses to interact socially, as masks, avoiding contact, and keeping distance changed the way people understand each other. Temporary legal changes could lead to longer-term changes in attitude, depending on how long they last, and Salomon says EAB members will have to adapt.

Relatively easy adaptations include the increase in maximum spending limits for contactless card payments in Europe, and fingerprint authentication could be the next step to securing them.

“More generally, time will tell if and how the balance between the different biometric technologies will shift toward contactless if restrictions remain active for a long time,” he observes.

Biometrics companies can contribute to resolving global industry challenges resulting from the pandemic in several innovative ways, according to Salomon.

“To the extent that other stakeholders would certify its legal use and public implementation, potential forward Biometrics industry moves may favor the evolution of new sensors, such as fingerprint capture at a distance,” Salomon writes. “Other contactless avenues may draw on further advances in iris capture on the move.  An alternative may also rely on expanding additional or fused biometric modalities, such as gait coupled to face or iris recognition in video surveillance applications, to mitigate COVID-induced decreased proximity recognition on masked individuals. Another line of progress may to further strengthen ID impersonation during self-verification through smart phones to completely bypass shared contact sensor usage.”

“Yet,” he concedes, “technology proposes, legislation composes, and the public disposes…”

EAB events have moved online, which Salomon says presents an opportunity to apply a proactive attitude to the constraints, and move beyond the “knowledge immediacy” of being able to search something online to the “presence immediacy” of being able to attend an event from anywhere. He suggests that in the longer term, however, hybrid events that also provide the benefits of immediate physical presence may persist.

Salomon believes this year’s EAB Research Projects Conference has an increased breadth of content and has been brought to new heights.

“We were, once again, blessed by our ongoing strong and fruitful cooperation with the EU JRC, especially thanks to our JRC project interface, Dr. Javier Galbally, who has been instrumental in putting a tremendous Conference agenda together,” he writes.

The three linked tracks on research, standards, and ethical use will include more than 20 new EU H2020 innovative biometrics research project presentations, a focused session on biometrics standards training, in line with the new eMRTD generation and related Digital ID transformation, and an expert panel on a holistic view of bias, fairness and ethics in biometrics, with a focus on “some increasingly popular debates, like keeping the AI-Genie in the bottle.”

As for conference outcomes, Salomon says we can hope for a more systematic technical approach to problem-solving for Presentation Attack Detection, CNNs and other new algorithms, a better framework for biometric image quality testing around a new generation of emerging ISO standards, the possible extension of contactless biometric applications, and “a concerted and agreed upon action line between representatives of all industry stakeholders at our meeting to ensure that Biometrics will remain legitimate and essential ID-verifying tokens.”

Ultimately, Salomon emphasizes that the European EDPS’ acceptance of the EAB’s proposal to cooperate on clearing up misunderstandings around biometrics is critical.

“The rules, values, and limits of Biometrics deployment and usage must be consistently explained to the general public, stay under tight legal control, keeping awareness current as technology evolves, thanks to a sustained and efficient cooperation between all responsible stakeholders.”

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