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Using biometrics to build digital trust

Using biometrics to build digital trust

By Joe Micara, VP North America at Callsign

Facial recognition has become nearly ubiquitous in the world today, from unlocking smartphones to verifying an identity when crossing international borders.

But using facial recognition doesn’t come without its problems. According to Karl Ricanek, a University of North Carolina Wilmington professor and director of the school’s Face Aging Group Research Lab, the software can make mistakes based on common factors. For example, puberty, skin tone, and even gender can impact how aged a person looks and cause the app to guess the wrong age. These factors can lead to adults being locked out of the platform or children being given the wrong level of access.

Moreover, studies have found that facial recognition is far less accurate for people of color and women. Research from MIT and Stanford University published in 2018 found that three facial recognition programs had an error rate of less than 0.8 percent when utilized for light-skinned men. However, one of those programs had a 20 percent error rate for darker-skinned women, and the other two had 34 percent error rates for the same group. Unfortunately, this is likely due to bias built into the algorithm throughout its model training. For instance, one program’s algorithm had been trained with 77 percent male and 83 percent white data, limiting the effectiveness outside of that population.

Beyond bias, facial recognition technology is also vulnerable to attack, enabling sophisticated hackers to defraud millions of people. In one example from 2020, fraudsters hacked the Chinese government’s facial recognition service and stole more than $76 million through fake tax invoices.

We’ve reached an inflection point in our global society as the digital economy is expected to grow from $14.5 trillion in 2021 to $20.8 trillion* by 2025. Over the same period, the cost of online crime will rise from $6 trillion to $10.5 trillion. And with facial recognition flaws exposed, we continue to endure the challenge of confirming people’s identities online. As a result, we operate under the assumption that people are who they say they are in the digital world, despite having no robust digital identity system to validate. In fact, according to Callsign’s research in partnership with Cebr, the United States has a negative trust gap of -4 percent, meaning that consumers in U.S. markets have less confidence in online and digital services than they do in society.

Because of our trust in the physical world and the consequences of criminal behavior that already exist, we assumed that those principles would translate over as our lives become further ingrained with the digital world. Although, trust hasn’t converted equally from the physical to online because we struggle to identify with who we are interacting. Using methods to identify people in the physical world, such as passwords and PINs, isn’t sufficient online because they only confirm knowledge of those factors, not the identity of who’s answering.

The only way to create a genuinely safe digital world is through a robust digital identification system that mimics the security experiences of the physical world. For example, instead of using our eyes, we use technology to identify a person by their unique characteristics. Such a system would involve deep technology, processes, and data policies managed and overseen by an independent body to create a secure digital world.

According to Callsign’s research, consumers worldwide aren’t opposed – we found that consumers have high expectations (47 percent) for the government and public sector to create a secure digital world, just as they are responsible in the physical world. Furthermore, 68 percent of consumers want the creation of a digital identity to improve their experiences of online services, with most wanting banks to safeguard digital identities. And many believe it’s not a farfetched idea – 50 percent of consumers believe that a regulated digital identity system will become part of consumers’ daily lives within five years.

Digital trust has an economic value in the real world, too. We estimate that just a 5 percent increase in digital trust per capita would increase each person’s contributions to a country’s GDP by $3,000. In the United States, that could equate to $979 billion, according to the report mentioned above.

We have a long way to go in building digital trust in our world. Brands like Instagram are taking a step toward more modern and equitable ways of verifying identities online–but this is just the beginning. The public and private sectors must unite to create a trustworthy world. The time to act is now before it’s too late.

*Analysis was conducted by Callsign’s Corporate Strategy team based on global growth forecasts for 2022 from the IMF, World Bank, and Fitch Ratings.

About the author

Joe Micara is VP North America at Callsign. As a seasoned professional in building and scaling new products, Joe now brings his expertise to Callsign. Having held key roles across sales leadership, delivery, and product, Joe has been instrumental in opening new markets in the cybersecurity industry. Being one of the first ThreatMetrix employees in NY, Joe’s contributions significantly advanced the business and technology. Similarly, he refined processes and revenue to achieve vigorous company growth over his tenure at BioCatch. Throughout, he has consistently remained a top contributor and received numerous performance awards for his achievements.

DISCLAIMER: Biometric Update’s Industry Insights are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Biometric Update.

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