Finding the “I” in Global Identity Summit

The opening keynote of the very first Global Identity Summit was presented by FBI’s executive assistant director for science and technology, Amy Hess. The choice to launch the conference and exhibition with a speech from Hess was appropriate for a number of reasons, chief of which is the fact the the FBI’s Next Generation Identity system went fully operational on September 7th, but most affecting of which was what it said about this year’s change in focus.

In terms of identity, contextual data includes information like which devices you use and for what.

In terms of identity, contextual data includes information like which devices you use and for what.

Hess began her presentation with an anecdote of a Kansas City bank robbery that was part of her initial assignment in the violent crimes division with the bureau. Two young offenders decided to hold up a bank, using a stolen motorcycle as their method of transportation. When the law intervened and an inevitable chase happened one of the miscreants got away, but was eventually reeled in thanks to a full fingerprint that he left on the painted gas tank of his bike (which he left behind when the chase eventually had him abandon the vehicle).

Hess concludes her story with a bitter sweet punchline: in the proceedings following the fingerprint apprehension led to a hung jury because a little old lady from a nearby suburb could not believe that the nice boy on the stand would rob a bank, despite scientific evidence that was so perfect it almost comical.

“So I’ve learned two things from that example,” she said. “One: there is never such a thing as enough evidence. And number two: never underestimate the influence of people who didn’t like science and math in high school.”

These are strong lessons learned, and they seem to be present at this conference. Identity is more than just biometrics, and that’s a concept that might as well also serve as a subtitle for the GIS, which until this year was known as the Biometric Consortium Conference.

Leading up to Amy Hess’s keynote, Duane Blackburn, conference co-chair and science and technology analyst at MITRE, made opening remarks about what identity is in 2014. Biometrics took up one third of the whole picture.

Identity, according to Blackburn’s presentation, is biological, biographical and contextual. The three work together in painting a full picture of a human being.

The first of these puzzle pieces are what make up biometric factors: your fingerprints, your irises, your facial features, your vein patterns and your voiceprint. Biographical identity factors tell more of the story: your name and your birth date. Contextual factors in a person’s identity are more nuanced and include amorphous details including education, residences, employers, relationships, financial data, media consumption, passwords and devices.

Taken as a whole, these three pieces of identity add up to a person. In the case of Hess’s anecdote, one juror weighed biographical and contextual data over biological proof and it added incorrectly up to an innocent person (and a mistrial). To look at it the other way, when removed from biography and context, vein patterns are just vein patterns, they don’t spell out your name and favorite song.

This is what the I stands for in GIS. This is what identity means in 2014. This is what we will be talking about all week.

Stay posted to FindBiometrics for more reporting form the Global Identity Summit sraight from the source.

September 16, 2014 – by Peter B. Counter