Passport contracts spark controversy, new biometrics integration possibilities inspire optimism
Biometric passports and national ID cards are prominent among the top stories on Biometric Update over the past week, with Semlex’ contract win in Zimbabwe drawing scrutiny and complaints about a Chilean contract that went to Aisino over bidders including Idemia and Veridos. Entrust is providing technology for Vietnam’s digital ID cards, which are expected to reach a milestone this year. Interviews with IBT and Nvidia executives suggest near-future directions for biometric integrations and voice biometrics in financial services, respectively.
Top biometrics news of the week
Semlex has won the new contract with Zimbabwe’s government for biometric passports, in a Build-Own-Operate-Transfer deal which the government assures will not raise the price of the IDs. Allegations of corruption around past contracts has caught the attention of the country’s press, and the tender process is already alleged to have been improperly conducted. Financial details were not disclosed.
The criteria in the bidding process for Chile’s biometric passports changed along the way, sparking concern that the tender was being altered to cut corners, favor low-bidder Aisino, or both. Idemia, ID Probe, Telefónica Chile and Veridos all submitted higher bids, and complaints that China-based Aisino does not meet the other requirements have already been filed with the government.
Another Chinese company is involved in controversy abroad, with Huawei smart city technology in place in Belgrade, but the facial recognition capability is dormant, as a lack of a legal framework in Serbia has prevented its use, to the relief of a concerned European Parliament. American contractor Business Efficiency Solutions involved in a safe city project in Pakistan with Huawei is accusing the company of stealing technology and pressuring it to build a backdoor.
The annexation of Afghanistan by the Taliban has led to door-to-door searches for their enemies, and worries that seized biometric equipment could be put to use exposing the identity and associations of those who wish to keep them secret, lest they be persecuted or even killed. It is unclear if any biometric databases have been accessed by the Taliban, but experts are deeply worried.
The World Privacy Forum is urging CDC guidance prohibiting the use of data collected from COVID-19 vaccine recipients from being used commercially to systems for proving vaccination, as requirements for and use of such systems ramps up. As the credentials are rolled out, fake CDC cards are proliferating, IATA’s Travel Pass is reaching more routes, and Pakistan has introduced its national credential.
The Philippines’ online system for step 1 registration to the national digital ID system PhilSys has surpassed 6 million registrants. They still must complete in-person biometrics enrollment for stage 2, but the country of over 100 million people has made steady progress at registering its populace despite the pandemic.
Entrust and MK Group are partners on Vietnam’s project to issue biometric national ID cards, and say the project will reach 50 million digital ID cards issued in 2021. The new cards were introduced in February to replace three previous versions.
One of the most influential companies in the history of modern biometrics has returned, and IBT CEO and President Charles Carroll tells Biometric Update in an interview that the reconstituted company has bold ambitions. Those include bringing biometrics to various processes for large-scale events and other use cases that are only beginning to be explored.
FacePhi has signed up Banco Santander for its selfie biometrics, Vecna has launched a new app for patient check-ins, and IDVerifact is integrating cybersecurity capabilities from DataStealth with its all-in-one biometric identity verification platform. Smartphone biometrics continue to grow, and the announcements in financial services, healthcare and enterprise technology demonstrate their scope, or at least the top of the iceberg.
The use cases for edge AI in financial services are numerous, and many of them could include voice biometrics, Nvidia Director of Financial Services Kevin Levitt tells Biometric Update in an interview. Advances in processing power are bringing AI capabilities such as life-like virtual assistants to devices that could not previously run them.
Biometric technology is sometimes blamed by organizations that rush to implement them without adequate policies or processes in place, Biometrics Institute CEO Isabelle Moeller told a recent Westminster e-Forum policy conference, Infosecurity reports. Philip James of law firm Eversheds Sutherland echoed this point by noting it was a procedural problem that caused the Information Commissioners Office to declare a police public facial recognition trial unlawful, while UK Cyber Security Council Vice Chair Jessica Figueras says the wider remit of the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner demonstrates a needed step towards addressing gaps that the technology’s advance has created in the law.
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