Government Biometrics Month: The Roundup

With September coming to a close, it’s time to take a look back at some of FindBiometrics’ featured coverage of Government Biometrics Month. The government sector is one of the most important components of the broader biometrics industry – indeed, it’s a driving force – so it’s always well worth taking a look at some of the most important trends, technologies, and issues in this area.

How Law Enforcement is Driving the Industry

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Our dedicated coverage began with an in-depth look at how one of government’s most important functions – law enforcement – has been helping to drive the industry forward. It’s a logical place to start, given that the police practice of fingerprinting was arguably the beginning of the sprawling biometrics industry we have today. As the feature details, this work has now largely gone digital, and new modalities have started to share the spotlight.

Most prominent among those is facial recognition, which is being used by an increasing number of police and border control agencies, among others. This has prompted some concerns about ethical and privacy issues, as well as early attempts at regulation; and our feature explains how emerging biometric technologies could help to alleviate those concerns – or exacerbate them.

ID Goes Biometric

Government Biometrics Month: The Roundup

The next installment in Government Biometrics Month’s featured coverage turned to another critical government function: identity documents. In the US and many other highly industrialized countries, the importance of this is often taken for granted and thereby forgotten or overlooked. In so many case, government is the arbiter of identity claims, with recognized proof of identity ultimately coming down to government-issued ID. So it’s easy to see how infusing some biometric technology here can help to make identification and authentication even more reliable. Issuing bodies can effectively create an irrefutable link between citizens and their ID cards by including biometrics in the latter. What’s more, this can in turn allow for the identification of citizens through biometrics alone, even when physical ID cards are not present, as in the case of emerging national ID programs like Aadhaar.

Our “ID Goes Biometric” feature also delved into emerging efforts to digitize government-issued IDs like driver’s licenses and turn them into virtual cards housed in smartphones. This helps to bring biometric security to traditional ID, since contemporary phones tend to support some pretty sophisticated biometric authentication systems. And our feature also looked at how biometrics are increasingly being used to identify government workers themselves.

The Importance of the Border

Government Biometrics Month: The Roundup

Our final feature for this year’s Government Biometrics Month returned to policing, but a very particular kind of it – border control. This is one of the most important growth areas in the government biometrics industry, with government agencies like US Customs and Border Protection as well as the Transportation Security Administration increasingly looking to biometric solutions for identifying individuals who are entering and leaving the country. As in other kinds of policing, facial recognition is playing an increasingly important role here, especially at airports, where the technology can be used not only to verify the identities of travelers but to speed up the passenger screening process.

Biometric border control is increasingly being applied to other kinds of border checkpoints, too, and it’s a trend that is underway not only in the US but around the world. Oftentimes it’s even being implemented in response to major cultural or political events, from Tokyo’s upcoming Olympic Games to the unpredictable disruptions of Brexit.

An Industry Expert Weighs In

Government Biometrics Month: The Roundup

In addition to the coverage in our feature articles, we also took the opportunity of Government Biometrics Month to explore some of its major issues in two discussions on the ID Talk podcast. In one episode, FindBiometrics Editor in Chief Peter Counter spoke with David Benini – Vice President of Product and Marketing at Aware – about the concept of “open ABIS”, tends in the African market, and the looming threat of vendor lock-in.

In the second ID Talk episode of the month, Counter had a chat with Benji Hutchinson, NEC Corporation of America’s Vice President of Federal Operations, Advanced Recognition Systems Division. The discussion delved into some important areas, including the US government’s evolving Biometric Entry/Exit program, the current controversy over government use of facial recognition technology, and the evolution of the Department of Homeland Security’s HART program.

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That’s a lot to take in, but these features also reflect the breadth of the enormous – and hugely important – government biometrics market. So while it’s just about a wrap for this year’s Government Biometrics Month, it’s fair to expect a lot more breaking news from this industry on FindBiometrics in the weeks and months ahead.

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Government Biometrics Month is made possible thanks to our sponsors: NEC Corporation of America & Aware, Inc

September 26, 2019 – by Alex Perala