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Biometrics’ potential on feature phones and data privacy threats illustrate AI reward and risk

Biometrics’ potential on feature phones and data privacy threats illustrate AI reward and risk

Digital identity steps by Ethiopia’s MOSIP-based system and in the U.S. to build digital identity systems made headlines this week in Biometric Update. The potential for feature phones to act as remote biometric capture devices to open up new markets is enormous, as Tech5’s CEO explains. Allegations and risks of biometric data privacy violations involving TikTok and Apple could dog the industry, however.

Top biometrics news of the week

Ethiopia’s national identity authority is carrying out public consultations on the legislative framework for the planned digital ID system, and recently held a webinar to gather input from stakeholders. A representative from the NIDP explained the draft legislation and implementation plans, which utilize the MOSIP platform, in the context of the country’s longer term digital strategy for Biometric Update.

A group of American digital identity stakeholders including the Better Identity Coalition has written to President Biden to propose a quartet of measures to turn the tide in the fight against identity theft. They propose a national digital identity framework based on standards set by NIST, greater support for mobile driver’s licenses, identity attribute validation services and direct assistance for victims.

UNHCR has begun distributing $590 a month in cash benefits to Ukrainian refugees using fingerprint biometrics to control the issuance of debit cards, as shown in a video from the agency. Cash is seen as the most effective way to help refugees, with biometrics helping to ensure the aid is not claimed fraudulently.

iProov has countered a lawsuit filed against it by FaceTec alleging intellectual property theft and breach of contract, denying the allegations and counter-claiming patent violations on FaceTec’s part. iProov claims two of FaceTec’s patents are invalid, among its five counter-claims. Industry observers are watching to see if the dispute damages trust in the technologies related to the patents.

The U.S. GSA has found evidence of bias in the errors made by facial recognition systems used for access to government services, and in response it will carry out research into the topic. The agency will not adopt the technology at this point, leaving the future of Login.gov as a means of authentication for IRS access somewhat up in the air.

The ability to carry out biometrics capture on feature phones could be a game-changer for financial inclusion and digital identity in Africa, and the audience of ID4Africa’s latest livecast heard from Tech5’s Rahul Parthe that development may not be far off. KYC and AML regulations and implementations that take into account actual risk factors could also help bring people into the financial system.

Kenya has extended the deadline for subscribers linking IDs with their SIMs for mobile network access amid a scramble by Kenyans and mobile network operators to complete the process. That includes Safaricom launching an online portal for customers to update their account details, which is being challenged in court for its interpretation of the requirement as including biometrics.

A viral social media trend has prompted hundreds of thousands of TikTok users to open themselves up to potential future biometric identity theft by taking closeups of their irises. The ‘challenge,’ associated with a television show, seems particularly risky given the alteration of the platform’s user terms to explicitly allow biometrics collection.

Apple is using its employee’s data as a resource, violating their data privacy to build its technology, according to an ex-employee, including the 1 billion images used to train its face biometrics. The allegations are being investigated by at least two national data protection authorities, and have been filed with others.

Super apps appear to be making headway in the West after gaining dominance in the Asian market, Mitek writes in a company blog post. The desire by developers to increase their share of users’ time and data is part of their motivation, but also raise the stakes for cybersecurity. While acknowledging the limitations of biometric technologies, Mitek argues for carefully-designed systems using multi-factor authentication or multi-modal biometrics.

An expert analysis published by the Ada Lovelace Institute warns that even a ban on facial recognition in the EU AI Act could erode national-level protections against abusive surveillance and invasions of privacy. The report is part of a series of resources on the implications of the act, and contains a section specifically addressing the impact on biometrics.

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