Big decisions for biometrics vendors amid broader market uncertainty
Any new rumors about a possible Idemia sale sends waves through the biometrics industry and grabs headlines, as happened with this week’s most-read story on Biometric Update. Microsoft also grabs headlines by sunsetting its facial analysis software, though the actual biometrics market impact will likely be modest. A panel discussing how governments can tackle fraud with an updated approach to digital identity was hosted by Socure, while profiles of leaders with MOSIP and Ethiopia’s digital ID authority explore another massive growth area.
Top biometrics news of the week
The prospect of a sale of Idemia drew the attention of readers this week, as its majority shareholder, private equity firm Advent, has reportedly begun considering its options. The latest rumor differs from the previous round in suggesting the company will be sold as is, rather than broken in two, and include possible interest from Thales, Cisco, Siemens and others.
An eu-LISA Industry Roundtable on biometric identity management featured a series of presentations from researchers and vendors to help European countries prepare for implementation of the new EES system. Among the highlights was a presentation from Idemia on architectures and technologies like homomorphic encryption to increase privacy protections for travelers.
Microsoft has unveiled a Responsible AI Standard, put restrictions on the availability of its facial recognition technology, and set a retirement date for facial analysis services under its Azure Face brand. The company admitted concerns about possible bias and a lack of accuracy in its facial analysis software, and reiterated support for increased regulation of artificial intelligence.
Ethiopia’s digital ID system in on track to meet its goal of 70 million enrollments, thanks in large part to a focus on advocacy and community outreach, and support from government that goes beyond funding, program Executive Director Yodahe Zemichael told Biometric Update on the sidelines of ID4Africa 2022. The MOSIP-based system pilot is expected to reach 100,000 enrollments by the end of July.
A partnership has also been formed, meanwhile, between Ethiopia Ministry of Health, Mastercard, Gavi, and JSI to develop a biometric digital health pass. The Wellness Pass implementation will provide a contactless card for portable health records.
MOSIP had an outsized presence at ID4Africa 2022, with several countries from within and beyond Africa reporting their progress using the open-source foundational identity system. Biometric Update was joined by two leaders within the organization to discuss its ties with Aadhaar, its work on biometric certification and its new Marketplace.
Biometric payments startup Torche is looking to help millions of Nigerians leapfrog past payment cards, with only 8 percent in the country using debit cards, and Vanguard profiles Nigerian-American CEO Sisan Dorsu. Torche was accepted into the Techstars NYC Spring 2022 cohort, and intends to enable payments with face, fingerprint and palm biometrics at retail points of sale.
The latest round of government digital ID includes card issuance for the Jamaican diaspora, a new card production center in Pakistan, and an announcement that Greece will introduce its digital ID wallet in the coming month. Serbia and Turkey have struck a deal for visa-free travel with a biometric national ID.
A webinar panel sponsored by Socure and featuring multiple former government executives gave a sober account of the wave in fraud attacks on remote delivery government assistance programs during the pandemic. Jordan Burris is hoping to see a shift in mind-set towards adoption of AI, rather than more friction.
Parsons CEO Carey Smith drops hints about the company’s plans for the biometrics capabilities it picked up in the Xator acquisition in an interview with Defense News. Xator will offer critical infrastructure protection, and Smith says Parsons makes such deals for technology differentiation, not scale.
Canada’s government is considering an update to its data privacy legislation, which would curb some private sector uses of AI. It also takes steps to mitigate bias and block illegally obtained datasets, each of which could have consequences on the facial recognition market.
A lengthy panel debate on the role of facial recognition in policing was hosted by the London School of Economics, with the support of the UK Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner. Representatives from the Biometrics Institute, Big Brother Watch, police and regulatory bodies had a spirited discussion.
Ondato CEO and Co-founder Liudas Kanapienis assesses the proposals in the UK’s Online Safety Bill in a guest post, and finds it weaker than it might be, and than the steps being taken in France. Social media’s harms are well established, and anonymity is often a shield for poor behavior, and the blue tick system does not go far enough.
Please let us know of any articles, blog posts or podcasts that we should pass along to the biometrics industry and broader digital identity community in the comments below or through social media.