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Face biometrics draws millions in investment, plus consideration, explanation and criticism

Face biometrics draws millions in investment, plus consideration, explanation and criticism

Facial recognition is the common theme of the most widely-read stories on Biometric Update this week, as the technology is being considered for greater use in Canada’s border controls, Zimbabwe is working towards ICAO-compliant passports, and Onfido comments on Apple’s plans to support mobile driver’s licenses.

Trulioo’s massive fundraising round and Clear’s potential IPO show the investment momentum behind face biometrics, while an interview with Ayonix and a post from Intel explore different implementation possibilities. A deeply troubling use case and an argument against a relatively benign one show the work remaining goes beyond technology.

The week’s top biometrics news

Canada has invited bids to develop a strategy for the country’s use of biometrics in border management, including inter-government and international information-sharing, from 15 groups. An editorial for the national broadcaster argues investment in border biometrics is techno-solutionism, making reference to facial analysis-based lie detection and social-media scraping technologies.

Zimbabwe has signed a contract to produce biometric passports in line with ICAO standards, though the provider has not been named. The contract is expected to result in the production of four million passports a year, and along with a new online registration point for national ID cards is part of a planned general upgrade of country’s identification systems.

A report on Uganda’s national digital ID system by the NYU School of Law’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice finds dramatic failures that are blocking access to healthcare and other vital social services for numerous Ugandans. The report questions the benefits of digital ID for the sustainable development agenda, and its co-author Christiaan van Veen told Biometric Update that people did not feel they had a choice in enrolling their biometrics, and the project’s emphasis was on national security from the start.

Apple has moved to support mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs) in its digital wallet, and the company says it is negotiating with the TSA to allow them to be used for domestic air travel. Onfido VP of Strategy Yuelin Li tells Biometric Update in an email statement that the move could spur greater adoption of digital identity by U.S. States, leading to easier access to a variety of services for consumers.

Trulioo raised $394 million in what may be the largest ever funding round of its kind for a biometrics provider, at a valuation of $1.75 billion. Having doubled its revenue, opened new offices and brought in new leaders this year, the company now adds two from funding round leader TCV to its board.

Clear filed a Form S-1 with the SEC for a potential $100 million IPO on the New York Stock Exchange. The filing notes the company’s potential markets in services around digital healthcare and location access for “knowledge workers,” and highlights its improved financial results over the past year in spite of the pandemic.

CardLab is launching a $10 million equity offering to fund the company’s efforts bringing its biometric smart cards to market. The funds will be used to increase CardLab’s manufacturing capacity to address what it says is strong market demand for its physical and logical access control technology.

Acuity Market Intelligence Principal C. Maxine Most notes in a LinkedIn post that $1.15 billion has been invested in biometric digital identity providers over the first half of 2021 in various funding rounds and private placements. The 12 investments included in the count are tightly focussed around a few consumer onboarding markets, Most points out, and the discussion in the comments touches on the relative position of platforms and biometrics innovators.

Drone attacks in Libya may mark the first time face biometrics have ever been used to help machines kill people, according to a startling UN report. Turkish-produced drones which reportedly feature facial recognition were used in an attack in which people may or may not have been killed, but the fog of war covers the country, providing possible cover for any nightmarish possibility.

A proposed moratorium on the use of facial recognition other biometric technologies in America will soon be reintroduced into Congress, according to a senator. A coalition of civil society groups has called for facial recognition use by law enforcement to be banned, meanwhile, and a Washington Post editorial says stronger regulation is needed.

Face biometrics-based age verification is being considered to safeguard access to pornographic internet content by several governments, with a new report making implementation recommendations for Australia, and Canada’s Privacy Commissioner raising concerns and suggesting changes to proposed legislation. Yoti announced a new customer win in the area, and the EU’s digital identity wallet could help limit underage gambling, a trade association says.

Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) Founder and Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn and Rochester Institute of Technology Philosophy Professor Evan Selinger take aim at facial verification in a Wired editorial, starting with the claim that it “won’t fight fraud” and then immediately backtracking to “may do far more harm than good.” Their conclusion, that a secure identity document with a secure cryptographic key is the best approach, begs the questions of what makes it secure, and how the credential would be bound to the person.

A Japanese government minister who attempted to renegotiate the price paid to NEC to develop its Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics app through threats has apologized, The Asahi Shimbun reports. The price has already been slashed by nearly half to 3.8 billion yen (US$34.6 million), but Digital Transformation Minister Takuya Hirai instructed his subordinates to threaten the company’s future business, before declaring at a recent press conference that the original contract was revoked because the app’s facial recognition function was no longer needed.

Ayonix has adopted a method of facial recognition based on detection and feature extraction on standard IP cameras to limit management resources needed and protect people’s privacy, CEO Sadi Vural tells Biometric Update in an interview. The company’s recently-extended partnership with RRP S4E brings Ayonix’ technology to military and law enforcement in India, and it is pushing further into healthcare as well.

Intel RealSense cameras take on-camera 3D face biometrics a step further, with support for any number of architectures, from edge to hybrid to all-cloud, to support a diverse range of use cases. The company explains in a sponsored post for Biometric Update what kind of architecture will most benefit different types of businesses.

StrikeForce Technologies CTO Ram Pemmaraju writes in a Biometric Update guest post that the sudden popularity of video conferencing carries risk to sensitive business information and intellectual property. The tools to implement biometric two-factor authentication to secure remote communications are already in place, fortunately, and along with anti-spoofing mechanisms, they should be a cornerstone of businesses’ security strategy.

Nok Nok Labs CEO Phil Dunkelberger joins PYMNTS to discuss his recent observation that risk signals are out and assurance is in, and the role voice recognition and other biometrics can play in providing that assurance. Dunkelberger predicted healthcare will be the next sector, after ecommerce, to adopt the FIDO protocol for passwordless authentication.

The Sovrin Foundation is gearing up to celebrate 5 years of promoting self-sovereign identity (SSI). Sovrin’s Board has a new chair and a new member, while former Chair Chris Raczkowski, who recently spoke to Biometric Update about the Sovrin Identity Wallet, is leaving the board to pursue SSI business opportunities after four years of service.

Please let us know in the comments below or through social media about any editorials, podcasts or webinars we should share with our readers in the digital ID and biometrics communities.

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