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Progress on government biometrics programs for elections, forensics and borders mixed

Biometrics and digital ID

From elections to pandemic aid, and from police forensics to border control, government biometric and digital ID programs are the main theme of the industry’s top news stories over the past week.

Even non-government news of the week, like digital ID systems for commercial aviation from Daon and Evernym, and NEC’s expectations for growth from its touchless biometrics solutions, involve the highly-regulated commercial air travel sector. Meanwhile ID.me has been selected by another U.S. state, Veridos is working on an EU borders project, and governments are being challenged by a data retention problem in the UK and common data protection enforcement difficulties in Nigeria.

Most read biometrics news this week

Biometric voting machines supplied by SmartMatic and used in Uganda’s election, in which the opposition has alleged widespread fraud, seem to have mostly worked, but isolated failures were reported. Internet service was disrupted and law enforcement is accused of partisan action, so confirming the degree of voter identity verification success is more difficult than usual.

Biometrics continue to play a major role in pandemic recovery plans. The air travel industry is moving ahead with the implementation of digital ID for health credentials, with American Airlines choosing Daon’s digital ID technology, and the collaborative solution from Evernym and IATA rolling out for major airlines in March, according to a report. A new coalition of companies has also come together to work on digital ID for vaccinations, and a patent for Global e-dentity shows a potentially promising and rapid test.

Veridos is working within EU research project D4FLY on a system for secure and seamless border crossings with multimodal biometrics, which is intended to prevent the accumulation of people in line-ups. The system includes self-service kiosks, a smartphone-based credential, and a ‘biometric corridor,’ which will authenticate passengers as they pass through.

Face biometrics and digital ID are each central to one of six technology trends SITA says in a blog post will give commercial flying a makeover in 2021. The same technologies are also indirectly part of trends towards evolving airport operations, use of IoT, AI and machine learning, and vaccine visas and digital health credentials.

Digital ID is also being applied to the fight against pandemic aid fraud, with ID.me selected by the state of Colorado to vet applicants. The volume of claims in California is causing problems, meanwhile, as the U.S. struggles with an identity infrastructure gap.

Kneron believes it can grow its AI chip revenue by eight times in 2021, after projecting five-fold growth for 2020 in a recent briefing, Nikkei Asia reports. The Taiwanese company sees opportunity from the growing restrictions on Chinese chipmakers, and AI chipsets used to implement biometrics and other capabilities in edge devices are forecast to leap from $7.7 billion in 2019 to $51.9 billion by 2025. Now, Kneron has financial backing from Foxconn to pursue its aggressive growth plan.

NEC is looking at a big year, predicting particularly large gains in biometrics and touchless interactions, targeting 100 billion yen (US$962.5 million) just from biometrics and video analysis in the year ahead. NEC subsidiary NPS, which provides software for data management to police, has agreed to acquire undercover police software provider Charter Systems in a deal with undisclosed terms.

Arrest history records with biometric data for hundreds of thousands of people in the UK’s Police National Computer system have been lost by the Home Office during a regular session of deleting specific records that had reached the end of their retention period. The data loss could prevent forensic identification of criminals, and the estimated number of records lost has been increased from 150,000 to 213,000, some of which had been marked for indefinite retention.

The book ‘First Platoon’ by Annie Jacobsen on the U.S. initiative to achieve ‘Identity Dominance’ in Afghanistan in order to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda includes some potentially explosive allegations. Jacobsen has also suggested in a New York Times editorial that the case for clemency of a recently- pardoned soldier convicted of war crimes in Afghanistan seems to have been based on a misuse of biometrics.

Apple is reported to still be considering launching a smartphone with an in-display fingerprint sensor in 2021, and possibly a foldable screen. The company continues to work at innovating smartphone biometrics, with a patent filing describing the use of ultrasonic sensors as a more durable alternative to regular microphones that can be implemented in a sealed environment, for voice authentication.

Nigeria’s ambitious digital ID plans are running into some of the same challenges with data protection compliance and enforcement that have plagued countries around the world in recent years, writes Digiterhub Managing Partner Yemi Adeniran in a Biometric Update guest post. Adeniran lists problems impeding data protection in the country, and considers whistleblower protections and issues related to funding and culture.

The Conversation examines the increasing use of facial recognition from the perspective of the face as a source of data, and who owns it. In the case of a Canadian shopping mall operator that turned off its facial recognition software, the company has no legal obligation to delete the data it had already collected, in just one example provided in support of restrictions that might prevent it from being used as it is to identify Capitol rioters.

Paravision CEO Doug Aley addresses the recent FTC decision regarding the company’s use back in the Ever AI days of customer data to train algorithms in a LinkedIn post. Aley credits Cyrus Farivar’s book “Habeas Data” for influencing Paravision’s recent actions, though he reasserts disagreement with some of the arguments he has made about the company, particularly with regard to intent. Elizabeth M. Adams has also been brought aboard as Chief AI Ethics Advisor.

Clearview AI’s attorneys Floyd Abrams and Lee Wolosky lay out the company’s position on regulatory policy and ethical use of facial recognition by law enforcement in an editorial for the Wall Street Journal. Abrams and Wolosky contrast the benefits of facial recognition as demonstrated by its use in identifying the rioters at the U.S Capitol with the dangers posed by its use in China.

Consumers who want biometric payment cards and would take actions like switching banks or paying extra to get one are now the majority, according to a survey of developed markets by Fingerprint Cards. Idex Biometrics, meanwhile, has partnered with a U.S.-based global payment network, its third, as technology providers prepare for commercial launches.

Popular Youtube video-maker Tom Scott has posed a challenge to AI and neuroscience researcher Jordan Harrod to make a deepfake of him for only $100, Mashable writes. Harrod manages a “passable impression” that narrates some of the video, in a sign of both the increasing public availability and awareness of deepfake technology.

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