Opportunity knocks for decentralized ID, biometric payment cards, health passes, and birth registration

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New partnerships announced on decentralized ID and biometric payment cards shook up the industry this week, with Microsoft signing up numerous device-based biometrics providers and an MoU between Samsung and Mastercard. A new offering of shares to the U.S. market by Idex Biometrics and a new passport contract for Veridos illustrate momentum in different markets, meanwhile, and an interview with IrisGuard was also among the most-read articles of the past week.

Most read biometrics news this week

Many of the top digital identity companies providing biometric authentication have joined Microsoft’s decentralized ID push, including Acuant, AU10TIX, Idemia, Jumio, Socure, Onfido, and Vu Security, and the company announced it will bring its DID credentials to public preview in the months ahead. Microsoft is also moving forward with its plans for passwordless authentication, including extending the capabilities of its Passwordless Pilot Program collaboration with AuthenTrend.

Speculation and planning around mandates for vaccine certificates and health passes have reached a fever pitch, with the U.S. and EU considering next steps, Israelis are already using their ‘Green Passes,’ and the UK government is reportedly talking to iProov about adapting the NHS COVID-19 app. Airlines continue to adopt the credentials as well, as the battered industry attempts to safely ramp operations back towards a semblance of normality.

SITA has suffered a data breach affecting passengers of Star Alliance airlines and at least some of their partners, but biometric data does not appear to be involved, as the Guardian reports an email to Air New Zealand passengers states the data was limited to “name, tier status and membership number.” Infosecurity Magazine notes the difficulty of securing complex IT environments like those in aviation.

Companies continue to work on biometric payment cards, and signs that consumers want them continue to roll in, with Goldpac launching a new card to go with China’s digital currency ambitions, CardLab joining a Mastercard growth program, and a survey from TietoEVRY and Zwipe suggesting the UK market is ready for mass adoption now.

The launch of Idex Biometrics shares on the Nasdaq, accordingly, was the subject of a lofty earnings potential estimate from one analyst, and the company closed its first day up. The Idex ADS price closed its first week at $24.90.

The biometric card market has been largely divided into two solutions developed by partnerships including fingerprint sensor-makers, but that may be changing as two different divisions of Samsung have formed a partnership with Mastercard to develop and issue payment cards. The plan is to reach the Korean market with corporate credit cards during this year.

Birth registration and collecting useful biometric from infants remain significant challenges, but progress is being made on both fronts, attendees of an ID4Africa webinar heard. Important work remains, at least in terms of government policy and procedure, if the gains are sufficient to enable the achievement of SDG 16.9’s indicator goal of universal birth registration by 2030, however. A new definition of legal identity was also offered up during the event, to help bring clarity to the issue.

Nigerians in the State of Kaduna will need to use a state Residents Card or their NIN to access a range of public services as of May 1. One-third of the state’s population had been registered for a NIN as of mid-February, while the state continues to issue the new Residents Card, a digital ID also backed by NIMC and established in 2017 to replace several legacy IDs for specific services.

MTC Namibia’s new Verifi consumer data protection service, which promises security backed by biometrics and AI, is examined by The Namibian, which explains it is comparable to SIM registration. The article draws a questionable connection between such systems and mass government surveillance, but also notes that an expected data protection bill was not included in a recent parliamentary agenda for 2021.

Investments have been announced into two efforts to build out digital ID in Canada, as the Digital Identity Laboratory of Canada has raised close to a million dollars in support from a government body, along with Accenture, Deloitte, Interac and KPMG, while IBM Canada has won a contract to enable remote passport applications.

Veridos has won the contract for Denmark’s new passports, in a seven-year deal, along with partner idpeople. A total of seven different passports types will be made, each with biometric data embedded in electronic chips for ICAO compliance, and issuance is expected to begin in October.

Getting essential deliveries like groceries to people in refugee camps has become even more challenging amidst the pandemic, but as IrisGuard Deputy Director Simon Reed tells Biometric Update, iris biometrics are keeping the aid systems serving millions of displaced people in Jordan functioning. Contactless biometrics prevent illness transmission, while reducing the fraud rate found in debit card systems, which the company has found to be as high as 26 percent.

An article published in the Communications of the ACM lays out a particular interpretation of what facial recognition is and the technology’s problems with demographic performance disparities, or bias. Bias can enter the development process at any step, according to an IBM researcher quoted by ACM, who says “There’s just nothing good that can come out of” facial recognition. The article closes by noting the inadequacy of the ACLU-style assessment that Clearview AI used to deny any bias in its app.

The “Xueliang Project” or “Sharp Eyes” surveillance program run by the Chinese government, which involves citizens having access to public surveillance feeds in order to police each other, seems to have come fairly close to its goal of 100 percent camera coverage of China’s public spaces by 2020, according to an article from OneZero that details the program, along with similar programs Golden Shield Project, Safe Cities, SkyNet and Smart Cities, at least some of which use biometrics. Some of the companies supplying the technology are well-known around the world, some hardly known at all outside of China.

Aculab has launched a recruitment drive to tap into the youth labor market, which is suffering from high unemployment in the wake of the pandemic, with support from the UK government’s Kickstart scheme. The company is offering an opportunity to work with its experienced engineers to learn a programming language, contribute to AI development, classify data for database creation, or carry out market research, and hoping to encourage more young women to join the technology industry.

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