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Federal research contractor wants a fence between identity and emotion biometrics

Categories Biometrics News  |  Trade Notes
Federal research contractor wants a fence between identity and emotion biometrics

The White House continues to push for what could become integrity standards guiding the government’s involvement in biometrics development. Admirable as the intention may be, a storied federal R&D contractor is pointing to a basic technological misconception on the part of the government.

Executives at Mitre Corp., responding to a request for information by the federal Office of Science and Technology Policy, objected to that agency’s linking of conventional biometrics technology with automated emotion recognition.

The policy center’s request for information (RFI) asked for input on past, current and proposed federal government uses of facial and other biometric recognition systems. It also wanted to know how the systems are governed today.

Summarizing its request, the policy center specified insights about identity verification as well as technology that infers an individual’s mental and emotional states.

Information collected through the RFI would be used in creating an Artificial Intelligence Bill of Rights — standards of behavior that protect individuals from biometric tech misuse and intentional abuse of personal data.

Mitre executives say identity biometrics is a distinct sector from emotion recognition. Not understanding this will lead to bad decisions.

They do not spell out how this would happen, and, in fact, the executives could be demonstrating restraint.

Others in the biometrics industry say that while there is a market for AI-based emotion readers, results are not as solid or trustworthy as vendors would have buyers believe.

Critics say that emotions are fleeting. A video frame or even segments absent from any meaningful context is a fraught endeavor.

Also, clips are as apt to reflect a memory an individual is thinking about as what is being perceived at any given moment. Plus, facial expressions differ based on gender, culture and other factors.

In a LinkedIn post, Mitre Center for Data-Driven Policy S&T policy lead Duane Blackburn called out the “staggering amount of mis- and disinformation being peddled as policy communities investigate biometrics.”

None of this is to say Mitre has never dabbled in speculative biometric-identity research. Company researchers filed patent on a process that reportedly can identify someone’s name solely by looking at a photograph of them 72 percent to 80 percent of the time.

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