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IBIA weighs in on biometrics use in answer to US government request

IBIA weighs in on biometrics use in answer to US government request

The International Biometrics and Identity Association (IBIA) has laid out the industry perspective on a response to the Request for Information (RFI) from the White House OSTP contrasts with some civil society groups, though notably less so with industry experts.

The 10-page response provides an overview of the specific applications of biometric technologies in the public and private sectors.

The IBIA reviews the history of biometrics development, up to the rapid improvement of the technology’s effectiveness with deep neural networks and machine learning approaches. The answer to the second topic describes the state of biometric algorithm and full-system testing, as performed by the U.S. National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST) and DHS S&T.

A section on security considerations notes the use of biometric technology to defend against physical and cyber threats, and refers to the 98 percent accuracy rate U.S. Customs and Border Protection claims for its biometric facial matching at border crossings.

Considering potential harms from biometric technology, the IBIA points out that it is “not aware of any exhibited or potential harms of the biometric technology by itself,” and that therefore it is from misuse of the technology that harms could arise.

“To counter this, the IBIA has developed ethical principles and best practices,” which the group goes into detail about in its Topic 6 sections.

The IBIA does not support any uses of biometrics that suppress rights, or the use of real-time biometrics for surveillance without a court order. The group also notes that the applications of biometrics by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration are not surveillance.

The industry group also argues that state restrictions like Illinois’ BIPA “are inappropriate and should be preempted by Federal law.”

The benefits of biometric technology use have only been amplified by the pandemic, according to the IBIA, especially for travel. The forensic and cybersecurity benefits of biometrics are also reviewed.

The IBIA outlines its own stakeholder engagement efforts, and makes several references to the groups ‘Privacy Policy Principles.’

The paper also acknowledges a lack of published best practices in the area, though there are some generally accepted principles within the industry, such as pilots with limited scope, clear and transparent communication, and alternatives for people who wish to opt-out.

The response to Topic 6f, on combinations of biometrics with other surveillance technologies, notes that the question implies that biometrics are surveillance technologies, “and this is not the case,” as surveillance is defined by persistent observation. This section again touches on the distinction between real-time facial recognition deployments and forensics.

The paper notes the different status of different biometric modalities in court, and that it will likely evolve along with the technology.

Finally, the public transparency measures appropriate to both public and private sector biometrics deployments are outlined by the IBIA.

The RFI was posted in October, and comments closed in January.

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